Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash couldn’t find common path


PHOENIX — Around the same time that the Los Angeles Lakers were introducing newly-acquired Steve Nash on Wednesday, the Phoenix Suns held a less-anticipated and more somber press conference to explain why they sent their franchise star to a division rival.

President of basketball operations Lon Babby addressed the media about the Suns’ decision to go their separate ways from Nash, and it all came down to the team not finding a “common path,” as Babby called it at the end of the season.

In what Babby called “extensive exit interviews” that by his approximation took 10-15 hours through at least four meetings, the franchise and Nash couldn’t come to a compromise considering Nash’s financial worth and the team’s ability to use its cap space to acquire talent to surround the two-time MVP.

“Kind of at the end of the day, what I would say is it just became obvious that you can’t really dive headlong into a transition if the thing you’re transitioning from is still here,” Babby said.

“Despite the good-faith efforts to find a common path — I always talked about a common path — there was no common path,” Babby added. “And so people will say it’s a financial decision. I would adamantly disagree with that, but it was a math decision. At the end of the day, there was no way to accommodate what he rightfully thought he deserved and our efforts to reload our team. The math just couldn’t work.”

Instead, Phoenix ended up going through a process of sending off their star in what Babby said was an excruciating decision. Even more painful was the surprise entry of the Lakers, who first inquired about acquiring Nash with a call from general manager Mitch Kupchak to Babby. Nash then reached out to the Suns, asking them to consider sending him to Los Angeles, a destination that fit with his criteria of being close to his family and having the ability to win games, all while getting a worthy contract.

By the conclusion of the free agency dead period, Babby, owner Robert Sarver and general manager Lance Blanks decided they needed to take their emotions out of it.

It came down to doing what made sense for the Suns product on the court, and receiving two first-round and two second-round draft picks in addition to cash fit the bill.

“When we first heard of (the trade),” Babby said, “we had the same reaction probably that everybody else in this room had, that everyone else in the community had, which was a visceral reaction that said, ‘No way, we’re not going to do that. That’s crazy.’

“I give Robert a lot of credit, because what he challenged Lance and me to do was really make sure that we were taking into account our basketball plan.”

And not surprisingly, Nash’s wish to remain close to his family had some pull in Phoenix’s decision to pull the trigger on the deal with the Lakers. Considering the only other deal that would net the Suns something in exchange for their point guard was New York, who reportedly was offering Iman Shumpert among others, the Los Angeles deal was the most appealing.

“As we engaged in the discussions with the Lakers, I think we came away with a very satisfactory result,” Babby said.

“In all of that, in the back of our minds, of course, is trying to accommodate Steve’s emotional plea for what is in his personal best interest, which is really to be close with his family and his children. You can’t ignore that kind of a request from someone that has the quality of person and the quality of contribution he’s made for our franchise.”

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Before the press conference, NBATV displayed a live practice of Team USA in the Suns media room’s flatscreens. Grant Hill was among the commentators, and while his platelet-rich knee surgery that he underwent could be a sign that he’s not ready to hang up the sneakers, his presence on the NBATV set in Las Vegas seemed to allude to his future off the court.

If he does return, then it’s still a question of where he’ll return. But Babby, Hill’s former agent, wasn’t tipping anyone on what the 39-year-old might decide to do.

“You have to ask him,” Babby said. “Everybody knows how I feel about him personally and how we feel about him. He would be a great asset for us with the group that we’re bringing in, but he’s got to do what’s best for him. I wouldn’t speak for him.”

  • https://twitter.com/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Since Amare left. I’ve been saying one thing over and over.

    “The Phoenix Suns simply cannot acquire the players needed to run a Nash-driven system. It is impossible.”

    What was said above repeats that and I’m glad the front office finally just came out and said it.

    I’m happy that, in saying that, instead of Nash leaving for nothing, the Suns got *something* in return.

    And as much as it makes me vomit seeing Nash in a Lakers #10, It was the right move.

  • Brian

    Amare was the player needed to run a Nash-driven system.

  • https://twitter.com/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Not true really, keep in mind Nash used Diaw to get to a WCF. It’s a combination of types of players and that combination could not all be in Phoenix at the same time over the last two years, or this year coming up.

  • PennyAnd1

    Ya’ll got it wrong. Nash only really needs an athletic dude with an IQ. Amare was that dude.

    I will definitely miss Nash. Still, I’m glad to know Dragic & Marshall will be the future at PG. What will really ease the pain though is getting Eric Gordon. I like OJ Mayo too, but his shooting % is worse than Shannon Brown in all categories. And Shannon just flat out suX! he has no IQ for the game.

  • Gosuns

    Rich very much agreed.

  • Tony

    @Rich,

    once again you make a claim without any substantive basis. The Suns could have signed Bosh, Lee, or Boozer when Amare left. Any of those three would have been acceptable replacements. The players assembled around Nash were not Nash-type players but not because they fit another style, but instead because they either weren’t talented or non-athletic.
    So once again, enough with the over-generalizations without any factual basis to them.

  • https://twitter.com/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @Tony – are you serious? Like, seriously, are you serious?

    BOSH was NOT going anywhere other than Miami. That decision was made before that season was over. He was going to Miami to join Wade and LeBron that was a done deal.

    BOOZER is NOT Amare. They are NOT the same type of power forward. Boozer would not have kept the Suns elite because he is not what Nash would have needed at the 4.

    David Lee? DAVID LEE? Do you remember the numbers on that contract he signed? No way Phoenix was going to pay that for DAVID LEE. They would have sooner re-signed Lou!

    Out of those three names, only Bosh would have fit a Nash-driven offense and there was NO CHANCE to sign him.

    Man, you just used CARLOS BOOZER and DAVID LEE – DAVID LEE!!! As potential saviors for the departing Amare. Next you’re going to tell us that you’re mad that the Suns gave away a pick that could have been MARSHON BROOKS! ..

    Wait, that did happen didn’t it?

    Okay so stitching together some of your recent comments. You would have been okay with an overpaid underwhelming team, lead by Nash, with the foundation being DAVID LEE or CARLOS BOOZER and MARSHON BROOKS as a draft pick selected to help Nash?

    Actually, personally I probably would have liked them to go with your selections. The tanking / rebuild would have come two seasons faster than it did.

  • Tony

    @Rich,

    oh right, as opposed to getting Childress, Warrick, and Hedo? Wow, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Do you even watch NBA games? Seriously, I mean if you could not fathom how both Boozer and Lee could fit with Nash, then you truly have no idea what you are talking about. Both have solid midrange jumpers to provide spacing and utilize the pick and pop that was effective with Amare. Now I’m not claiming either would have been a perfect replacement for Amare, but they would certainly be better than Hedo, Childress, and Warrick. The fact that you apparently can’t see this is a testiment to how little you know about basketball.

    And yes, I’m pissed they gave away their draft pick that could have led to Brooks. Heck, even Blanks liked Marshon Brooks’ game. Yet, without providing any factual support once again to dispute Brooks being better than Brown, you once again resort to silly comments implying I said he would be the franchise savior.

    You are probably right that Bosh had already decided to sign wherever James went, but the Suns never made any effort to try and recruit him. They remained passive, not trying to sign any of the bigger name FAs. So, since we don’t know for a fact what Bosh’s intentions always were, unless you have some insider information, there’s no reason to believe that had they pursued Bosh and offered him a nice contract, that he definitely would have refused to play for the Suns, especially considering that he and Nash are friends.