Stein: Suns want to re-sign Steve Nash instead of trading him

Marc Stein’s report that Robert Sarver doesn’t want to trade Suns star Steve Nash but instead hopes to re-sign him for at least two more seasons is not exactly breaking news.

After all, management has repeated that Nash can stay as long as he wants every time this topic gets brought up (which happens quite often) and Nash has always insisted he will not demand a trade every time he’s asked (a lot as well).

Yet it’s noteworthy nonetheless two weeks before a trade deadline in which it would make sense for the Suns to at least consider shopping Nash with the playoffs likely a long shot.

Stein lays out the current Nash scenario facing the Suns:

Sarver, though, is apparently determined to try to convince Nash to retire in the desert. The thinking there, sources say, is that the Suns believe they’d have a better core going forward with a re-upped Nash, center Marcin Gortat, cap space and a top pick in the well-regarded 2012 draft than with the sort of assets they could bring back now in a deadline deal for a 38-year-old point guard who, even as he continues to play at an All-Star level, is just a few months away from free agency.

The risk there, of course, is that keeping Nash beyond the trade deadline exposes the Suns to the same risks Orlando faces if it hangs onto Howard, creating the very real possibility that Nash could leave Phoenix without compensation. In that scenario, though, it’s believed that Sarver would prefer to announce to the world afterward that the Suns tried everything they could to keep Nash but ultimately couldn’t stop him from signing elsewhere — and then start to try to rebuild with the resultant cap space — as opposed to settling for a so-so trade in the next two weeks.

This also jibes with the Suns’ stated desire to avoid a long rebuilding project due to how long it takes most teams to return to contention after they decide to blow things up and start from square one, unless they luck into a franchise star.

As dreary as things seem today, adding a top-10 pick in a loaded draft and a decent free agent to this Nash-Gortat-Dudley-Morris-Frye core sounds like a playoff team, assuming Nash continues at this level. In any case, Nash is likely the best free agent who would be amenable to signing in Phoenix.

On the flip side, not trading Nash would open the Suns up to a scenario through which they could lose a pair of cornerstone players for nothing within a two-year stretch (although Amare isn’t exactly playing like a franchise cornerstone these days). At that point the Suns’ roster would lack both impact talent (aside from Gortat) and quality players on rookie contracts (save for Morris), and they’d be starting from scratch without whatever piece could be acquired for Nash as well as the resultant improvement in this year’s lottery pick.

Furthermore, Stein heard a few voices “cautioning that the Suns are listening to Nash pitches more than they’re letting on” but he added that the “overwhelming majority of insiders” surveyed on the topic don’t expect Two Time to need a new zip code anytime soon.

Stein cited the report that Orlando would like to acquire Nash to pair with Howard, but after playing around with the trade machine I can’t think of any combination that would make that much sense being that their only decent asset, Ryan Anderson, is set to become a restricted free agent and you’d likely have to take on Jameer Nelson’s $8.6 mil player option for next season. Sure, Nash would fit perfectly in Orlando with Howard and their shooters, but they already traded away their best asset to make a Nash trade (Gortat) last winter.

That’s why if there is any movement on the Nash front I expect it to come from the other team Stein reports interest from.

“Portland,” says one source close to the situation, “has been interested in Nash for a while.”

The Blazers are the one team that I think could have the motive and assets to make a play for Nash, assuming the Suns ever change their stance of course.

Their offer would begin with Ray Felton, who would represent a $7.56 million expiring contract. He would hold down the fort at point guard for the rest of the season and be given a tryout of sorts considering his success in this system in New York.

If the Blazers were to add pending restricted free agent Nicolas Batum to the package then it would become something to seriously consider, although Chris Broussard called the Frenchman “virtually untouchable.” Portland could also build an offer around Wesley Matthews and dangle Nolan Smith and/or picks to entice Phoenix.

Because of Felton’s contract, the Blazers have the ability to fashion a deal that gives Phoenix quality youth without adding future salary commitments, which should be the goal of any Nash trade. Portland began the night in eighth but sits just 2 1/2 games out of fourth. The Blazers have been after Nash for years and could feel he’s the missing piece for a long playoff run.

My contention all along has been that the Suns need to explore their options, see if any trade could substantially improve their future and at that point have a conversation with Nash to see if such a move would be in both their best interests.

As we are seeing with the Colts and Peyton Manning, it’s not easy saying goodbye to a legend and it’s understandable for the Suns to think they could compete with Nash back, a top-10 pick and a legit free agent. Although the specifics are different, if there ends up being a divorce between the Suns and Nash I could see it playing out similarly to the Manning fiasco in that neither side wants to be held responsible for breaking up what was such a successful partnership.

But if the Suns get their wish, according to Stein’s sources, that’s a conversation they will never need to have being that Phoenix’s long-term plans still include Nash.

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