The Nash extension question

This photo just about sums up the Suns' season. (AP/Paul Connors)

The question of Nash's extension is a real head-scratcher. (AP/Paul Connors)

Everything the Suns have done and talked about doing this offseason has revolved around building a core of youth around veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill in the present and then going forward with a roster of youngsters thereafter.

After those aforementioned vets, only 28-year-old Jason Richardson is older than 26.

The Suns have resisted overtures on a 2010 cap-killing Tyson Chandler trade and have often talked about the importance of financial flexibility next offseason.

Which brings us to the question, why is extending a 35-year-old Steve Nash as important as the Suns are making it out to be?

While the Suns have told Amare they don’t want to talk extension until they see him officially return to the floor, a smart move considering the severity of his eye injury, a Nash extension has been priority numero uno since the moment the offseason started.

KTAR’s John Gambadoro tweeted that the Suns and Nash are “close” on such an extension, an inevitability that heated up around the time of last week’s signings of Hill and Channing Frye after Nash left a summer’s worth of hints of being amenable to playing in New York.

I’m really split on the Nash extension issue.

On one hand, there’s no NBA player I would rather watch play for the Phoenix Suns than Steve Nash. No, he doesn’t possess the physical gifts of a Kobe or a LeBron, but nobody orchestrates an offense quite like him, and it’s no wonder his teams have led the league in offense for seemingly the past decade.

It would be difficult for Suns fans everywhere to watch MVSteve finish off his career in another uniform.

Then there’s that whole thing that even at 35 he can still play, and nobody knows how to run the offense Gentry plans on playing better than No. 13.

He’s also the type of player that everybody in the league wants to play with. It’s no wonder why Hill and Frye took less money to end up in Phoenix.

Then there’s the flip side, which questions why a Suns team clearly looking toward the future would want to throw a ton of money at an aging player.

Unless something drastic happens, it appears as if the Nash Era will end without a title, so it would make sense to try to usher in a new era as soon as possible.

I’m ecstatic that the Suns have the look of a playoff team in 2009-10 when losing won’t help them anyway with their pick in the hands of OKC, but what about the future?

What does a 36-year-old and 37-year-old Nash do for the Suns in 2010-11 and 2011-12?

Even more importantly, Nash could command a three-year deal in the $10-13 million range. Of course, my original thought of getting Nash at a hometown discount of around $8 mil per was dashed when Kidd got a shade more, but paying Nash anything more than $10 mil per year might not be the wisest investment.

Any deal would essentially take the Suns out of the Summer of 2010, although that could change if they shed J-Rich or fail to re-sign Amare, and you’ve got to wonder if those resources would be better spent on someone a bit younger.

I understand that sounds callous to say about a player who means as much to this franchise as Nash does, and I feel like a horrible person for writing it, but you just can’t let fan sentiment get in the way of a major franchise decision.

My good buddy Adam Green over at KTAR makes the rather unpopular point that the Suns should not extend Nash for many of the reasons stated above. He also invokes the Eric Byrnes comparison, and that’s not something to be done lightly.

Mind you, I remember shooting hoops with Green days after the Byrnes extension, and even at that time he complained about how dumb the signing was (and he was in the minority at the time as well then, too).

Ironically enough, Nash figures to get something similar to Byrnes’ three-year, $30 million extension in the middle of his breakout 2007.

Now I don’t want to compare Nash to Byrnes because Nash has been one of the league’s best for a decade, and Byrnes was almost out of baseball before briefly reviving his career in the desert.

But the point is, Byrnes was a fan favorite whom the D-backs felt they could not afford not to extend in light of losing guys like Luis Gonzalez in recent years. Even though they had a prospect like Carlos Quentin ready to step in for Byrnes (and how’s he doing right now?), they opted for the fan-friendly move.

Steve Nash will never dip to the depths Byrnsie’s at right now, I just hope I’m not writing an article comparing Nash’s seemingly impending extension to Eric Byrnes’ around this time in two years.

My biggest issue with an extension is just the contradictory message the franchise is still sending.

On one hand they’re trying to build a great young core, which could be greatly aided by a Nash trade, and on the other hand they’re about to take themselves out of the Summer of 2010 by locking up a player heading toward the wrong side of 35.

I would be all for a Nash extension if they had made a push for Marion, looked into a Chandler deal a little more seriously and sent the message they’re in “win now” mode.

After all, what good will a mid-to-late-30s Nash do for a team set to rebuild?

  • Alex, Macedonia

    The Suns can still trade Nash in the summer and not lose him for nothing …

  • Wilson, Doug

    The Suns definitely need to rebuild, this was apparent at the end of the season. Any time you watched the Suns play against younger teams like the looked like a bunch of old men. In the same breath their needs to be some kind of anchor or center piece to build around (i.e. Nash, Amare). Without that core you are talking about painful seasons… we just had one of those. If the Suns sacrfice everything to rebuild, they will not be able to fill seats. I want to see us make moves for the future but not at the expense of makeing America West look like a Marlins Game.

  • yanyanman2

    who would play point? and all this stuff about summer 2010 sounds like overhype to me. we should look to jrich (trade) or amare (extension or trade) as the keys to our future. if amare turns out to be full force, we should extend him and not worry about having to score another superstar in summer 2010. we need nash to keep mentoring other players and dragic, as well as running our offense to help our younger guys develop their skills.

  • yanyanman2

    plus, we have a ton of young guys who can develop. keeping nash around is going to help that, not hinder it.

    even with nash and grant, we are a youthful team with guys with alot of upside

  • cholomon

    The Sun's needs Nash to run the offense but if they aren't going to have someone on the roster to protect him from phyiscal playing teams he will mostly like be hurt for most of the contract extension. What's going to keep teams from knocking his teeth out, breaking his nose, and/or hip checking him into the scores table? The officials? The NBA league? Shaq, Oh that right they trade him so that he could protect LeBron from the vigorous play.

  • jay thatch

    the moves the suns hame made so far have made it necessary to resign nash. fan favorite and age issues aside, nash is probably the only AVAILABLE guy who can run the suns the way they are currently set up personel/coach wise. now wether resigning nash is good for the suns or not is a mute point. this is the direction the suns have gone, and only a trade for a similar (younger) point guard would be a viable option.

  • FanFeedr

    Another point to consider is who would replace Nash if he was traded or let go. That is just a math problem, and it doesn't work if you slot Dragic or Barbosa at the one (and Andre Miller doesn't have the wheels.)

    Nash is their best option at the point, and it is a matter of paying him fair market value rather than paying him based on sentiment.

  • Kevin B

    Man I wish we signed Tyson Chandler…The Hornets are so desperate we probably could have gotten their 2010 pick from them as well.

  • AC

    I'm all about Nash sticking around to help develop the youth. I was hoping that Hill would seek a winning team to get him his ring, but I'm not complaining that he stayed. All of the youth and talent is great but if there aren't players to groom them they won't reach their full potential. As Suns fans I think we just have to accept the fact that we aren't going to have a winning team again for a few years and it's hard for us because we have been spoiled over the past 6 years or so.

  • Will

    You don't re-sign Nash because you can build around him, you re-sign him because of what he did for the franchise. He's responsible for the most exciting era of Suns basketball, is a 1st ballot HOFer, and an immediate inductee on the Suns Ring of Honor.

    If not for this Suns era, the NBA would still be stuck in those 74-69 final scores we saw at the beginning of the decade. Nash made high octane offense cool again. He helped change the sport for the better.

    He won't average 18 & 12 again, but he'll still be a top 5 PG for a few more years, and there's no scenario where PHX could pry away a better PG from another team.

    It wasn't Nash's fault they missed the playoffs last year. He was the reason they almost made it. Last year's team didn't even come close to having the depth/versatility of the 05-08 teams. Without Nash, PHX would have been lucky to win 35 games.

    The real question is whether Dragic is the heir to the PHX PG throne. I don't know if he is.

    If anyone has to go – it's Amare. I don't care how many points he scores. He has no commitment to individual or team defense. He's a head-case more interested in changing his nickname than he is improving the glaring weaknesses in his game. STAT is a great scorer, a great fantasy player, but he's a locker room cancer and he IS NOT a great player. Not all great players play great defense, but all great players commit to trying.

    If I'm Kerr, I'm talking with Chicago about sending STAT to the Bulls for Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas (it works on the Trade Machine). Hinrich has 3 years left on his deal, can learn from the best PG of this generation, and be in the prime of his career right when Nash is about to end his.

    Hinrich is also the best PG in basketball who isn't untouchable. The Suns have no shot to get someone like Parker, Rondo, Rose, Devin Harris, Williams or CP3, but they need a legit option, and barring the Suns drafting their PG of the future, Hinrich may be the best option out there.

    Hinrich is a great shooter, a phenomenal team player and one of the better defensive PGs in the league. He can run, too.

    You take your lumps in '09 and if Thomas is still an underachiever, let him walk and you have 4 all-star caliber guards (SN, KH, LB & JR) and you use your cap room to bring in the best PF/C and SF/PF you can afford.

    They already have the makings of a good bench (Lou, Dudley, Bizzaro Lopez, Channing Frye, LB, Earl Clark). Bring in 1 max contract big in '10 and some other complimentary pieces, and they're right back in the hunt.

    I don't care what popular opinion is – I know 68% of fans on AZCentral want Amare to stay. It's never been about the 30 points he scores. It's always been about the stupid fouls, the complete lack of defensive awareness, and the me-first attitude ("I'm not a captain.") Send him packing, save the franchise.

    If they keep STAT and extend his contract, once again the Suns are a 45-55 win team with no shot to do anything significant.

    Garnett wasn't great until he committed to defense. Neither was Kobe, Lebron, Jordan, Karl Malone. All of those players changed philosophy and committed to defense by age 26. If Amare was planning on joining them, he would have done it by now.

    Think about it – he hasn't even committed to rebounding. Someone with his size, wingspan, vertical leap and athleticism only averages 8-9 boards a game? That's a lack of effort.

  • Jeremy

    I think resigning Nash is huge because we don't have the PG that we trust to come in for Nash. Also having Nash and Hill, two of the classiest guys in the league to mentor and teach our young player is a dream situation. (Think Tony Clark and the Dbacks 3 years ago, they let him go thinking he didn't do much and brought him right back when they realized how wrong they were)

  • Bob Hope

    Unfortunately due to the Suns selling picks they don't have Rondo ready to take over from Nash now. They are forced to sign him with no #1 pick in 2010, another stupid money related move, and no avalable young free agent PG to sign.

    Amare has never been taught to play team defense, playing for a half dozen high school coaches, no college and then D'Antoni. The ability is there to be taught. They need a big man coach who is not Cartright to teach him. The Suns don't pay for coaches since Sarver has been here. Amare's defensive skil set is quite different than Cartright's. Kareem sat here on an Arizona Indian Reservation coaching looking for an NBA job. The Suns didn't give him a look and he is now with LA. Look around and you don't see many big guys Amare's age or younger that can produce like he does. Try and replace him. Who is the best guy avaliable and you won't be able to do it. You don't trade players unless you can get better talent.

    That is why this team is where it is. Every trade they have made was to fix a perceived problem, yet every time they got less talent. Talent wins NBA games. Joe Johnson for Diaw and the pick that was Lopez, Marion for Shaq, J-Rich/ Dudley for Diaw and Bell and of course K. Thomas and 2 #one picks for nothing. Selling all the talented picks for cash, Deng, Gortat, Rondo and Fernandez. With the minds in the front office and lack of cash to spend they will get no better. Forget about it. They should have had a talented mix of youth and veterans now to contend for a title instead of what they have which looks like a .500 team in the West with Amare, aging vets and a bunch of role players, none of which can play defense more than at an average level.

    No one will take J-Rich's deal. They are stuck with him and his obvious personal problems.

  • Will

    Bob –

    I’m right with you on the cash for draft picks philosophy. It’s obvious we’re getting burned by it. Nothing stings more than Rondo. He’s tailor-made for run-n-gun.

    Trading the rights to Deng made sense at the time because we had Marion, who we thought was going to be a Sun for life. We also had JJ who could play SF and we were a week away from signing Q, another SG-SF.

    The problem is that there were several superior players available @ 7 they could have had instead of Deng: Al Jefferson, Andre Igudola, Kevin Martin, Josh Smith, JR Smith, Delonte West, Jameer Nelson.

    Your take on trades is 1/2 right. What I think you’re saying is “ideally” when you make a trade, you get superior talent in return. The situation with Amare is no longer ideal, and his reputation is known all over the league. The Suns will not get superior talent in return. If they had tried to trade him last off-season, they would have gotten a lot more than they can now.

    Don’t hope for the trade where we get the better end of the deal. It’s not happening.

    You can’t replace Amare in a trade. Because your trade partner has a need at PF/C, that’s why you offer them Amare. But you can get value in return at different positions. That’s the only play PHX has, otherwise he walks in a year.

    You also bring forward a theory about how the right coach would make him better defensively. Maybe, maybe not. Flip Saunders can’t coach a lick of D, but Garnett developed into one of the best defensive post players in the last 10 years in MIN. Garnett had the desire to get better defensively. Amare is too busy changing agents and uniform numbers talking about how he deserves max money.

    I’m not saying he can’t learn – he just hasn’t shown that he wants to. His mid-range shot is better, his FT% has gone up. He spent entire off-seasons working on those elements of his game. Why hasn’t there been ANY signs of defensive improvement in 7 seasons? He fouls at the same rate, players burn him with the same moves. He makes the same mistakes now that he made when he was a rookie 18 year old.

    That’s a sign he doesn’t care about D. While I agree that none of his coaches have either, it’s obvious that a no D philosophy has not/will not work.

    So why keep him then? To build something new that still won’t work? No thanks. 40 + years of great regulars seasons and playoff heartbreak is enough for this fan.

    Ship him to the Eastern Conference for whatever we can get and start over in 2010.

  • Artur Baguete Mascarenhas

    I cant agree more with Will… excellent coments and I’d be thrilled to trade Amare for Kirk and Tyrus.

  • Andrew

    How about we trade Amare and Tucker to NY for Lee and Robinson and Jordan Hill. We can get Hill because D’Antoni does not believe in using rookies and Knicks will maybe agree to sign and trades for Nate and Lee. This gives us more young talent that still is not in their prime yet. Then we only have to see Amare and D’Phony twice a year. Amare will not be required to play any defense and everyone comes away happy.

  • Sean

    ESPN: Nash to sign today for 2 yrs, $22 million.