On Steve Nash's loyalty and the Suns as a legitimate playoff contender

A recent Paul Coro article reinforced the most interesting aspect of the Phoenix Suns’ trade season: the fact that Steve Nash rumors never came close to being a distraction.

During the week before the trade deadline we heard nary anything about the possibility of Nash being moved whereas Dwight Howard seemed to change his mind about his future every five minutes.

That could just be because the Suns did a superb job of controlling any leaks but it is most likely because there legitimately was no Nash trade talk making the rounds. The Dwight rumors completely overshadowed what the Magic were doing on the floor, but the Suns quietly went about their winning streak before the deadline passed with hardly a whimper.

“I’m proud of it,” president of basketball ops Lon Babby told Coro. “It was my goal and our goal as an organization to avoid having his situation be a distraction all season long. The only way to do that is to be in partnership and Steve has been a wonderful partner all year.

“I suppose there are people who disagree with whether we should have traded him, but the way he’s handled himself validates and reinforces why we decided to keep him. Stability, loyalty and respect are important in laying our foundation.”

Every time Nash was asked the question he gave the same response about being oblivious to trade rumors and just focusing all his energy on the season. The Suns, meanwhile, continued to reiterate that they would only consider moving Nash if he brought a trade request to their attention.

As I have said all along, my preference was for the Suns to at least see what they could get for Nash. I have felt that they owe it to their future to at least consider such a deal if they could get back a package of legitimate prospects and/or picks.

At the same time, Nash and the organization deserve credit for preventing this from becoming the Dwight Howard circus. Only time will tell if the Suns made the right decision by refusing to deal Two Time, but the way Nash and the Suns have handled this potentially tricky situation has been done with nothing but class.

As for whether he will re-sign, Nash’s agent Bill Duffy had this to say, per Coro:

“He will have options and one he will strongly consider is Phoenix, based on what they’re planning to do. They respect him and he likes (Suns Managing Partner) Robert Sarver, (President of Basketball Operations) Lon Babby, (coach) Alvin Gentry and his teammates.

“I know they’d like to re-sign him, but that’ll be his decision.”

That certainly does not sound like a slam dunk so the Suns’ front office must be a bit concerned that they could have just lost their final chance to acquire some value in return for Nash.

Perhaps there is a reason loyalty is so seldom seen in major sports these days.

Meanwhile, with the trade deadline now behind us I will now officially stopped thinking about lottery picks and instead focus my attention on this playoff race the Suns have found themselves in.

Perhaps I deserve blame for being late to this party, but I just did not think the playoffs were an option after the Suns dropped back-to-back home games to Cleveland in New Jersey after falling at home to lowly New Orleans earlier. Even when Phoenix made a mini-run by winning four of five games in early February I thought their subsequent four losses in a row (including three on consecutive days) would bury them, and if that didn’t surely the Golden State loss before the All-Star break would.

At that point the Suns were three games out of 12th in the loss column, and thus it seemed impossible that Phoenix could pass five teams on its way to a playoff spot regardless of how bunched up the bottom of the West playoff picture was.

Today tells a completely different story. The Suns sit all alone in ninth place and could tie No. 8 Houston in the loss column with a victory over the Rockets tomorrow night in US Airways Center. Suddenly, the playoffs don’t seem so out of the question regardless of how difficult Phoenix’s closing schedule is.

Looking at the team’s future and how badly it craves a franchise star, a part of me still really wants the Suns to get a top 10 pick in this loaded draft. This hot streak may just serve to put the Suns in the no man’s land of being not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to get an impact lottery pick either, which is what I fear the most.

But by not even considering trading Nash the Suns are clearly going all in this year while trying to rebuild on-the-fly, and I suppose there would be worse things than an unexpected run to the playoffs even if it makes the eventual rebuilding process a little harder.

And 1

  • Despite the recent run, John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds give Phoenix just a 19.0 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. That is worse than three teams Phoenix leads in the standings — Minnesota, Portland and Utah — and puts them in 12th place in the West with a projected record of 31-35. SCHOENE is not buying the Suns either, projecting a 9-14 finish (including the Detroit game) for a 30-36 final record that would also rank 12th in the last behind the Wolves, Blazers and Jazz.
  • ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh ranks Nash as the fourth-best 2012 free agent behind Deron Williams Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson. Writes Haberstroh: “Can you imagine if Nash played on a contender rather than spending his time in NBA purgatory (also known as the Phoenix Suns)? The magic is still there even as he approaches 40 years young. He owns the top effective field goal percentage in the league, the top assist rate in the league and arguably the top make-everyone-around-him-better rating the game has ever seen. It’s almost a crime that a talent of his caliber hasn’t played with an All-Star since Amare Stoudemire in 2009-10. Nash won’t play at this level forever (we think), and you can expect multiple contenders will be bidding for his services even though he’s one of the oldest players in the sport.”

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