Phoenix Suns notes: Nash, Amare and scheduling fun


The one story that won’t go away this season features this simple yet excruciating question: Will the Suns trade Steve Nash, and if so what can they get for him?

Every time they lose a few games — as the Suns recently did in dropping five straight — the Nash whispers will grow a little louder. When the Suns are winning games (especially if they rejoin the playoff race), we won’t hear a peep (well, hardly a peep).

We’ve been through this song and dance enough to know where everybody stands. Nash is the “sun, moon and stars” of the franchise and the Suns won’t trade him unless he makes a request. Nash, meanwhile, has remained resolute in his stance that all his effort is going toward the season and that he does not plan on making such a request.

To me so long as the Suns have a shot at the playoffs, this is a non-issue. I don’t see any way that Phoenix moves him in such a situation.

However, if the bottom falls out and the Suns become a definite lottery team before the trade deadline it would not surprise me if those stances are softened. That’s because all along the Suns’ plan has been to rebuild while staying competitive with veterans like Nash and Grant Hill who can set a fabulous example for the younger Suns. But if the “staying competitive” part of that goes out the window, it would make sense for the Suns to skip right to Step 2.

For the first time I can remember, Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby seemed to acknowledge that possibility last week on the Doug and Wolf show, as Adam Green reports.

“Sometimes you do have to go through a cycle in this league, and that’s the reality of it,” Babby said.

Such a cycle would involve the natural phase of being bad to be good, a scary proposition since franchises like the Timberwolves and Clippers are just starting to get good after years of doing just that. Yet with enough cap space to potentially offer two max contracts and a potential high lottery pick if Nash is dealt, the Suns would have assets to make a quicker rebuild possible.

John Gambadoro wrote that a Nash trade won’t be easy because some of the most logical trade partners don’t have the kind of assets to deal for him, but a Nash deal would not be about an equal swap of talent, it would be about officially starting the rebuilding process by hopefully obtaining at least a decent future asset or two along with likely improving their own draft pick without Two Time.

If that were to happen, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reports that the Magic would have serious interest in Nash, but this time around they don’t have a Gortat to offer in return. I think Indiana (Collison/filler/pick?) could be a possibility as well.

The speculation is only beginning as (barring a Howard/D-Will trade) Nash will be one of the few players potentially available who could swing a conference race.

To me it’s time to start thinking about the future and the bounty this draft could provide because the Suns need more young top end talent to contend, but with the scarcity of legitimate trade offers and due to what Nash means to this franchise it’s understandable that the front office would only take that viewpoint if the Suns fall completely out of the race.

A sprint of a schedule

This week the Suns received a large dose of scheduling hell, darting around the country to play games in seemingly every region of the nation.

But every team will feel that travel pain (as Suns fans know after previous visits from exhausted Portland and Milwaukee clubs), and did a nice job of breaking down the schedule to see who really has it worst.

According to the site, the Suns will not play five games in six days as 19 unlucky teams will have to do. They also luck out in that they will only play four games in five nights on six separate occasions, which may be more than a usual season but is half as many as Charlotte must play.

Phoenix has 21 back-to-backs, which is about middle of the pack, and 14 three in fours, which is near the league average as well.

As far as the opponent rest breakdown goes, the Suns will face seven teams playing their fourth game in five nights, and they will get 17 games against teams playing on a back-to-back. There’s a wide range of teams playing opponents on a back-to-back as the Bobcats will get 28 of them but the Heat just 11.

What’s wrong with Amare?

Mike Schmitz broke down how the Suns shut down Amare Stoudemire on Wednesday night, but these days everybody is having success limiting the artist known as STAT.

During the Knicks’ six-game losing streak, Amare is averaging 13.3 points and 6.7 boards on 37.6 percent shooting, and for the season he’s going for just 17.6 and 8.0 on 41.3 percent marksmanship, which aren’t exactly max contract numbers.

We won’t be able to fully evaluate the Suns’ decision not to offer Amare a fully guaranteed max deal for another few seasons, but the early returns this year are that it was a good one. Amare was a beast last season so perhaps this is just an early season slump and his numbers will revert to normal, but watching the Suns-Knicks game STAT didn’t exactly resemble a max player with three years left on his deal.

Of course, the Suns definitely botched the aftermath of that summer, but those errors can be rectified much easier than whiffing on a max player since Hedo has already been banished and Childress likely will be as well via the amnesty clause next offseason.

This season it seems like we’re beginning to see why the Suns did not offer Amare a fully guaranteed max deal as much as it would have helped in the short term.

And 1

  • Entering Saturday, Nash led the league in assists (10.0) and Gortat in field goal percentage (59.9 percent).
  • The Suns’ ranked 15th in offensive efficiency (99.8) and 21st in defensive efficiency (101.0) despite a season-best defensive effort in Boston. The Suns limited the Celtics to an efficiency of 78.9 and were downright defensive in New York as well, holding the Knicks to 89.8.
  • Nash somehow ranks poorly in adjusted plus minus, with a minus 9.15. He annually ranks among the league’s top players in this stat. Grant Hill (13.94), Markieff Morris (10.36) and Robin Lopez (9.20) lead the team.
  • Morris has dropped to ninth in David Thorpe’s rookie rankings.