Steve Nash not sure Suns still 'determined to keep me'

Whenever the question has come up throughout the course of the season, I have always felt the Phoenix Suns were the favorites for Steve Nash due to his comfort and familiarity with the system that revolves around him, his loyalty, the training staff (very importantly) and the presence of his family.

With only a handful of hours left before Nash can begin flirting with potential new teams (the free-agency negotiation period opens tonight at 9:01 AZ time), Nash seems to be distancing himself from returning to Phoenix.

Nash did not tell ESPN’s Marc Stein whether any team was a favorite for his services, but he did say, “I do know that for the first time I realize that it might not be Phoenix. I would have said even in the middle of (last) season or last year that I would have thought I probably would have stayed in Phoenix forever. But it’s come to a point now where I’m facing the reality that’s not (the case).”

“I don’t necessarily feel like it’s a home run anymore,” Nash continued. “I don’t necessarily feel like they’re determined to keep me. I think there’s a lot of factors. So, one, I’m not sure they’re determined to keep me, (and) two, there’s other opportunities that are exciting. So I think I have to be open-minded … but at the same time be able to forecast where I’ll be most successful and happiest.”

The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reported that “the Suns’ interest in retaining Nash does not come at all costs,” being that the Suns do not appear willing to go beyond two years whereas teams like Toronto and Brooklyn may offer three.

The Suns can offer more money than any team being that they own his Bird Rights (up to the $18 mil a year range), but I expect the Suns to offer something around the two-year, $20 million range that has been whispered in recent weeks.

“He will have many factors to weigh,” Suns PBO Lon Babby told Coro. “Candidly, we will have decisions to make. If we can get together and reach a common ground, that’s fine.”

The most interesting comment Nash made to Stein was when he said, “I don’t necessarily feel like they’re determined to keep me.”

It’s impossible to tell the exact genesis of that feeling, but it could include a number of reasons such as not offering the extra year, drafting a point guard in the first round, money, something the Suns have told Nash or for once a realization by the Suns’ front office that this is the time to start over.

I’m sure that comment irks Suns management, as they have done everything possible (save for acquiring better teammates) to accommodate him throughout the incessant rumors that have cropped up the last two seasons. Due to what Nash means to the franchise, the Suns are going to publicly at least do everything possible to retain him (even when it doesn’t make the most sense) so they must hate hearing a comment like that.

The next question is whether the Suns should do everything possible to keep him.

All along the Suns’ stance has been they do not want to fall into what seems like an inevitable rebuilding project because of how long it often takes those teams to get back to their winning ways and how much luck is needed to do so.

However, there’s a school of thought that says departing the treadmill of mediocrity (AKA Nash leaving) and unleashing a full-throttled rebuilding plan could help the Suns become better sooner than if they continue to chase No. 8 seeds with Nash the next few seasons.

Of course, the best-case scenario would probably entail acquiring a wing stud like Eric Gordon (incredibly doubtful, I know) and pairing him with Nash, but short of that the question remains why would Nash want to stay to remain with a mediocre team and sentimental reasons aside why should the Suns pay a fortune in dollars and years to bring Nash back for such a squad?

Well, the answer to me would be if you are thinking short term rather than long term. There’s no move the Suns could make to win more game in 2012-13 than re-signing Steve Nash. Considering what he means to this city and these fans and the fact that many Suns followers can’t fathom this team without Two Time running the show, we can see why the Suns will eventually make a strong run at him.

Then there’s the question of why Nash would want to return. I listed some reasons at the top of this piece (comfort, familiarity, loyalty, training staff, family, the fact this is “his” team, possibly money). Yet if winning trumps all of those factors, clearly Phoenix is not the best place for him.

Steve Nash will spend the next several days meeting with a wide range of teams that can offer a wide variety of pluses and minuses. I fully expect the Suns to make a whole-hearted push to keep Nash, yet every day it’s looking more likely that the two sides will initiate an amicable divorce in which Nash moves on and the Suns at long last rebuild.

Hollinger breaks down potential Nash destinations

ESPN’s John Hollinger analyzed a variety of possible Nash destinations that he defined as quasi-realistic.

Of the Suns he writes,

Phoenix: “The sentimental choice, Phoenix can offer Nash big money via his Bird rights (up to the $18 million-and-change maximum for a player with 10 or more years of service) if it wishes and offers a training staff that many regard as the league’s best. While a more realistic figure for Nash is probably in the $10 million to $15 million per season range, it’s worth noting that the Suns can match any bidding war.

Nothing much changes in Phoenix if Nash comes back, and that’s the problem — while he gets to run the same Nash-centric offense, he’s also running it with the same teammates who missed the playoffs last season.

It’s hard to see how that is tempting for either side, which probably explains why the Suns drafted point guard Kendall Marshall and why both sides seem resigned to the fact that the party is over.

Moreover, the Suns can rebuild quickly post-Nash. They’re an alluring free-agent market due to the weather and training staff, and they can have more than $20 million in cap space if they let their veteran free agents walk, re-sign Robin Lopez for reasonable money and use the amnesty rights on Childress. There might be a year or two of pain involved, but it probably beats bringing back Nash, Grant Hill and Shannon Brown just to squeeze out an upside-free 39-43 campaign.”

Hollinger also lists Dallas (the most realistic destination to me), Toronto (who is expected to put the full court press on right at midnight Eastern and potentially offer stupid money), Brooklyn, the Knicks (Hollinger calls this “virtually inconceivable” for financial reasons), Miami, Portland and Hollinger’s favorite, Indiana.

I completely agree with him on the Pacers, a team I thought should have tried to trade for Two Time at the deadline had the Suns made him available. Of this potential dark horse entry into the Nash sweepstakes, Hollinger writes,

“The Pacers are a good team with a need at point guard and a bunch of cap space; with Nash, they could be champions. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect free-agent fit.

By all rights, the Pacers should be the favorites to land Nash. At the moment, they aren’t even on the radar.

The Pacers will have about $12 million in cap space this summer, including the cap holds on restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Indiana could offer Darren Collison in a sign-and-trade with Phoenix and give Nash a three-year deal worth about $45 million, which would put the Pacers on equal or near-equal footing with every other suitor for his services.

Meanwhile, basketball-wise this is by far the best team for which Nash could sign up and still be paid market value. The Pacers would just need to re-sign Hibbert and Hill and fill in the gaps on the wings with exception money, and Indy would give itself a three-year run at winning a championship. Could you imagine this offense with Nash at the controls, all that outside shooting at spots 2 through 4 and Hibbert in the paint?

Alas, imagine is all you’ll ever get to do. It won’t happen, because it’s Indiana, and it doesn’t appear Nash has any desire to go there.”

Tags: Steve Nash

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