Will Steve Nash be a 'hummingbird trapped in a sandwich bag' in LA?

As expected, the Phoenix Suns spent Thursday in limbo with the majority of their remaining cap space tied up in an offer sheet to Eric Gordon that the New Orleans Hornets are expected to match.

As I reported last night, the Hornets are likely to utilize the majority of the 72 hours they have to match because once they do Gordon’s $9.6 million cap hold will turn into his $13.7 mil first-year salary, and thus the Hornets will lose $4.1 million of available cap space (they currently are about $10 mil under the cap).

CBA expert Larry Coon confirmed the Hornets’ position for me tonight in an email:

A team has to maintain “room” while an offer sheet is outstanding. Room can be either cap space or a suitable exception, and a suitable exception includes Bird rights. So as long as the team retains full Bird rights, they don’t need to maintain cap space.

Unless they find a use for that cap space sooner, I fully expect the Hornets to wait until the last hour on Saturday afternoon to match on Gordon as they have $4 million reasons to do just that.

While we’re waiting, I would recommend taking a visit to TrueHoop to read Henry Abbott’s analysis of Steve Nash as a Laker.

Henry basically wonders whether Nash can be Nash, the whirling dervish two-time MVP who annually led the league in assists and offensive efficiency in Phoenix while playing the most fun ball in the NBA.

The alternative would be whether this will be the Terry Porter era all over again, when people thought Nash was on the decline (in hindsight, what a joke!) when really it was just Porter’s offense that lacked spacing and featured Shaq hogging space in the middle that was stifling him.

Henry brought up the Kevin Arnovitz allusion that Nash looked like a “hummingbird trapped in a sandwich bag” during much of the Porter era. Will that scenario repeat itself in LA?

The Lakers would be getting a bargain if they were paying Steve Nash less than $9 million to be the player he’s been the past eight seasons, yet that’s quite the pretty penny for a glorified spot-up shooter who runs the occasional fast break and takes control of the offense only when Kobe isn’t shooting and Bynum isn’t posting.

The past eight seasons Nash has essentially been the most unselfish ball hog the league has ever seen in that everything revolved around him. This was a good thing for Phoenix because it led to some of the most efficient offense we’ve ever seen. When Nash was surrounded by shooters and roll men and asked to create, the Suns steamrolled the league for perhaps the best stretch of sustained offense ever.

Yet with Kobe, Bynum and Gasol, there’s no way Nash will be that guy anymore.

It’s something I’ve always wondered when pondering Nash’s trade value, and it’s probably one reason he was never really on the block. He would always possess more value to Phoenix than anyone else.

Sure, perhaps when D’Antoni was still around he would have been a perfect fit for the Knicks and maybe Toronto would run the Nash system, but any legitimate contender with its own stars in place (and that’s got to include the current Carmelo Knicks) would make Nash fit them more than they would suddenly fit Nash. And that could be a problem, as Henry points out:

 The 2005 and 2006 MVP didn’t even make the All-Star team in 2009, and most believed he was the same player he had ever been, but the system didn’t allow him to do what he does best. Ask him to do everything on offense, and Nash runs a beautiful show. Ask him to do regular point guard things, like make an entry pass, cut through the lane, and stand in the corner, and it’s not clear why he was ever the MVP. It’s like Mario Andretti driving the school bus.

I don’t think anybody in their right mind imagines Kobe Bryant being content watching Steve Nash run the show, and we know Bynum will need his touches and Gasol already gets lost at times as it is. Due to his shooting abilities and pure passing skills, Nash would be an asset anywhere, but he may not be the same special point guard he was with the Suns in Los Angeles.

Of course, the personnel in Los Angeles is much different than it ever was in Phoenix. The Suns just needed that one dominant roll man and a team full of shooters to surround Nash with. When the Suns weren’t fast-breaking, the pick-and-roll was their bread and butter with everything focused on Nash’s creation skills. Hence when Nash sat, the Suns were often in trouble aside from some brief stretches of Goran Dragic brilliance.

With all their other All-Stars, the Lakers don’t necessarily need that Nash to be a contender, yet it will be interesting to see whether they can maximize the talents of Nash, Kobe, Gasol and Bynum. Sure, Nash can space the floor for them as a spot-up shooter, but if he’s given the freedom to create open shots for those guys, man, the league will be in trouble, as Henry concludes:

The trick to getting the most out of Nash is to make the Lakers, all Lakers, value the open shot, the easy shot — to value making the right basketball play. Given how defenses handle the Lakers — Bryant is almost never open — that means more possessions where Bryant will have the ball very little or not at all. Maybe Bynum and Gasol will similarly realize that a lot of possessions might end with Nash driving and kicking to, say, a wide open Steve Blake.

That’s how this could work. It’s not as personally gratifying, perhaps, for the big-name players. But it’s hell for opposing defenses. And it could get all those good players the easiest looks of their careers. It could be amazing.

The alternative? Some offense where Nash doesn’t have the ball and lots of freedom? Well, that’s just putting the hummingbird back in the sandwich bag, and who’d do a thing like that?

Nash and Kobe will surely need their time to get used to each other, but the Lakers would be wise to let this hummingbird run free.

Tags: Eric Gordon Steve Nash

  • Scott

    I don’t think they SHOULD let Nash run the show … not entirely. Because that sets them up for the predictable “cut off the head of the snake” tactic, where taking out Steve would disable the whole team.

    I think they need some sort of hybrid offense, where Nash can slip in a few Nashty shots or passes, assisting the offense here and there, but the other guys aren’t dependent on him.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Coach Brown should continue to build on his defensive strengths and get the hell out of the way on offense.

    He has always allowed his offensive stud(s) to run the offensive show as long as they could handle the rock.

    There should be pick and rolls for days. PnRs for weeks, months, YEARS. Nash using Bynum. Nash using Gasol. Nash using Bryant and when the ball switches hands, Nash is instantly the most vicious / deadly sniper in the NBA.

    Nash, Kobe, and Gasol will work it out. Bynum will be fed endlessly.

    by mid-January, barring injury, that team is going to be the shadow of death. Kobe will average the easiest 25PPG in his life and opposing teams will be pulling their starters mid way through the 3rd quarter.

    As much as I hate the Lakers, I’m looking forward to watching that offensive beast come to life, grow, and dump-truck most other teams.

  • Serek

    If that happens, all will know that it was the Nashty Sauce that made the Laker pot a championship dish. Too bad Phoenix couldn’t provide the necessary ingredients to be spiced up by the Sauce, but I’ll be happy if Steve finally wins it all this way. Should be fun.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    The Lakers have everything Nash would need. I’m sure once they’ve gone through a few practices, he and Kobe and probably Gasol will make sure the offense gets tweaked.

    I mean the Lakers do what Nash needs already. The difference was, at the point guard spot, they didn’t have a guard who could execute.

  • Gosuns

    @scott, I disagree cause if you cutoff the Nash head then your vunerable to the Kobe head, teams can’t simply trap Nash when Kobe’s on the floor

  • Scott

    @Gosuns -

    Well, the ball has to get to Kobe if Nash is being targeted.

    If the ball is bypassing Nash because of pressure on “the head of the snake,” then that’s what I’m talking about in terms of how the Lakers should not run everything through Nash. They need to be capable of bypassing him and still running an offense.

    Likewise, if there’s extra pressure on Kobe, Nash can use his skills to turn the rest of the team loose.

  • Scott

    If anyone was wondering what Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets are doing with all those players … they are still pursuing Howard.

    Here’s the scoop …


  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    The Lakers play a half court game – something that Nash didn’t enjoy very much when he had Shaq on the Suns.


    OJ Mayo is in Phoenix! Just look at his twitter! He said that he had a meeting no signature yet!

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Here are the tweets:

      Seems like the Suns know for certain they will have to move on from Gordon.

  • steve

    I think there could be reason to meet outside of being absolutely certain they won’t land Gordon (although I suspect you’re right, Michael). They could just be forming a backup plan.

    As to Nash, I don’t think he’s going to struggle to adapt. It’s not like he was BAD when Shaq was in PHX anyway. If Brown decides to run the PnR with Nash 20-30 times per game, getting away from hero-ball with Kobe, I don’t think he’s going to have any problem putting up something like a 12/12 with a PER around 20. I’d take that.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Right right, it could just be a backup plan. But since Gordon/Mayo share the same agent, just one more piece of evidence that the Suns are moving on even though NOH hasn’t come out and matched officially yet.

  • Jason A.

    Now the question is what’s a good contract for Mayo? I say 3yrs/$21 million. Anyone?

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      See I agree with you Jason that on its face 3/$21 makes sense and would fit their cap space. But when you look at what the does to the Suns’ salary situation in Year 2 and Year 3, not sure if it’s worth the opportunity cost.

  • Jason A.

    I see your point but only if you don’t think Mayo will be a strong player here. I’m willing to bet that if given a big role in the offense he will thrive. Willing enough to give him a 3yr/$21 mil contract. It’s a good risk and the contract isn’t a killer. What does EG do that’s worth twice the money?

  • bk

    No….. 2 years or 4 years making more sense to Suns. Beasley and Dragic are 3 years too (with Dragic player option). So, you don’t want all of them become FA in the same summer 3 years later.

  • Greg

    Phoenix is not a super-star market. I think that is why the Suns FO is hoping to hit the jackpot with atleast two of the three (Dragic, Beasley, Mayo). I think Goran is a lock for success, or atleast fulfilling the value of $7.5 mil per year. Small sample size, but in my opinion, two months of running an NBA team with All-Star production is good enough for me. I will have to do some research, but not many PGs in league averaged 17-7, let alone at the efficiency Goran did, and 1.8 Steals per game in that span. Impressive. I don’t see the Suns striking out on both Beasley and Mayo. Hopefully both justify their contracts (in my opinion wont be hard to do, considering 6 mil is a small price for the upside of Beasley, and assuming 7-8 mil for Mayo is the price tag). Atleast one of those two will exceed their contract value and make the Suns FO look good, and 2/3 in my opinion isn’t bad when you are dealing with the talent ceilings all three of these players possess. Around 21 million for 3 starters, and all 3 have All-Star potential, I think the FO can’t go wrong with these three guys. People question the character of Beasley and Mayo, but those issues have been in the past and no recent problems have emerged. They were and are still kids in my ways. I am 21, and adjusting to the real-world is hard enough, let alone the pressure of being the faces of NBA franchises. They will further mature, and hopefully their talent fits with Gentry’s system.

  • Greg

    $21 million per year combined that is in appx salary*

  • steve

    @Greg – Despite the popularity of that line of thinking (that Phoenix isn’t a superstar market), the Suns have had at least one superstar for the majority of the past 25 years. I’ll grant that it’s not LA, but that’s not to say superstars don’t want to play in PHX.

  • Greg

    I agree completely with what you just said, nice weather great training staff. But Nash was an all-star in Dallas, he became a superstar in PHX. They drafted Amare and Marion. Free Agent wise, who was the last superstar free agent they have attracted? Jason Kidd i know, that signing was 15 years ago. Barkley 20 years ago, but he demanded his way out of PHX. I see your point, but my point is, there hasnt been a big time signing since Nash, and when guys like Paul and Howard hit the market I am sure PHX isnt on their short list.

  • Greg

    Lets not use the terms “super star” because outside of Lebron, Durant, Kobe, Howard, Paul, its hard to justify that label. Simply Star, Eric Gordon’s wishes to play in PHX may catch some other player’s attention, but as mentioned, I havent seen them lining up at the door or requesting to be in PHX. I am surprised more players werent begging to come play Nash, one of the best offensive PGs to ever play in the league.

  • sturmtank

    from a starting 5 view, we need a SG and a PF. if we dont get gordon, mayo is the best fit. nit only this year, but also next year (2013 sg fa: iggy, monta, ginobili, harden, martin).
    go get mayo for something like 7 per, pick up brand or scola (they get payed so maybe they join for 5 per) and whe have a pretty good team already. and still have 10 picks the next 3 years + amnesty clause.
    i’d prefer mayo + scola or brand for 14 than eg for 14.
    PG: dragon / marshall / telfair
    SG: mayo / dudley / (redd)
    SF: beasley / warrick / j- chill
    PF: scola or brand / morris / frye (if lopez signed)
    C: gortat / lopez (or frye if lopez not signed)

    who likes that team? … i would!!

  • http://twitter.com/auggie5000 Auggie5000

    All of this laker talk disgusts me.

  • steve

    Fair enough. Since Nash there haven’t been any “star” signings I can think of. However, maybe the FO just thought that Nash, Amar’e, Matrix, and role players were enough. Given the position that management has held in the past 8 years to sign more expensive free agents and get rid of cheap draft picks, they’ve never really had the cap space for another “star” in the Nash era. I’m not saying that was a smart strategy, but I’m sure it was a factor in the lack of big FA signings here in recent years.

    I think it’s telling that this is the first year the Suns have had significant cap space in a long time (excluding their 2010 summer when no one seems to know what was really going on), and they attracted the second-biggest name in FA immediately. Maybe that’s a sign of good things to come. Hopefully.

  • Greg

    Mayo is a better option then Iggy, Ellis, Harden, Ginobli? Hmm i wouldnt go that far, but I do think he will succeed and do just fine in PHX. Morris and Frye will do an adequate job, you don’t get any further ahead with Scola, he doesn’t play any defense and at 32 he is showing signs of decline. Brand is an excellant defensive player, but is struggling with his game offensively with age. Lopez would not be retained if they chose to sign Mayo+Brand/Scola, they would not have the money. I would like the veteran leadership, but neither fits the Suns rebuild plan. Gordon’s contract would result in PHX renouncing Lopez’s rights making him an UFA, so they money still wouldnt work with the other scenario. No one mentions it a whole lot, but I think Redd returning would be a much bigger help then people think. He proved he is a scorer off the bench, and he showed some flashes last season. another year with the Suns staff, his knees might just be good enough to make a leap minutes wise and stats wise next season at minimal compensation.

  • Greg

    @ Steve, I agree again, their contracts and roster situations did not allow/permit the signing of a big free agent. I don’t see why it couldnt/wouldnt be a destination for stars, but i guess thats just more of the “feel” then the reality. time will tell.

  • sturmtank

    greg, it always depends on the price tag. i think harden is not a max player like eg also should not be. but one out of 30 teams will pay max. so i prefer mayo for lets 7.
    rebuilding does not mean you dont sign any veterans. you should indeed sign vets.. i think brand or scola could really improve morris’ low post game…
    i agree that resigning redd would be great. i think they will when the erica drama is finished….

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Dallas won the Brand auction at 2.7 mil.

    Apparently, Scola’s opening bid is A LOT higher than that so I wouldn’t expect a bid to be put in by PHX as they’re currently one of the teams who are under the cap, which means they could bid on him.

  • http://www.thomassaboau.com/ Thomas Sabo AU

    Of course, the worldly assassins are no superior. “Just attempting to support!” They can not stand it if you’re not content in their valuable little lie of a society. Have to be anything wrong with you! The witches wage perpetual witch hunts and they could never ever burn sufficient souls.