Amid all the NBA noise, there is conspicuous silence emanating from the Arizona desert. That sound you don’t hear is Steve Nash, not asking for a trade.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing for the guy who referred to himself as “the Canadian Jeremy Lin” on Friday. Canadians aren’t big on rocking the boat, or putting individual agendas ahead of the group goals. Then again, Nash comes from hockey country, and it’s commonplace in the NHL to see aging stars moved to a team that gives them a shot at the Stanley Cup. (The most famous was Ray Bourque who latched onto the Colorado Avalanche’s Cup run at age 40 after a standout career in Boston). This is Nash’s window to do the same thing.
Nash is 38, and entering the….nah, the solar metaphor is too easy. Let’s go lunar and say he’s in the waning crescent stage. If he asked out after giving eight great years to a Phoenix Suns franchise that has repeatedly made fiscal obligations a priority over championship aspirations, could anyone blame him?
“I’m not oblivious to [the chance of] playing on a contender,” Nash said. “But at the same time, especially in the position I’m in right now, I feel a sense of loyalty to my team. To go and ask for a trade, it’s not like I’m going to say, ‘Trade me to...’
He made a circling motion with his finger, as if he were about to land it on a destination. That seems to be the vogue in the NBA for players with an opt-out looming in their contract. Carmelo Anthony forced his way to New York, Chris Paul wound up in Los Angeles (one way or another), Dwight Howard has made his list for whenever Orlando realizes it’s time for him to go.
“I think they are in slightly different scenarios,” Nash said. “Mine’s a different scenario at this stage in my career. I don’t want to jeopardize or turn my back on my teammates for that limited…let’s say, unknown.”
He can improve his chances to win a ring…but they’re still just chances. No guarantees in the NBA. And besides…what would be in it for the Suns?
Placing Nash on a contender and getting back the most amount of talent in return for him are inherently contrasting goals. If the Suns cleaned up the way the Nuggets did with Carmelo, what would be left for Nash to contend with?
Also, the Suns don’t have a single, monstrous contract that will keep them over the salary cap for years to come. In fact, one reason to keep Nash aboard for the duration of the season is that his contract is expiring. That’s $11.7 million that comes off the books this summer.
The Suns aren’t trying to move Nash. They respect his professionalism in not speaking out and making an already trying season any more difficult.
He surely wouldn’t mind going someplace better. He just isn’t the one to demand it.
So he remains tied to a team that fell to 12-19 after a loss to the Lakers Friday, locked in a situation that Nash described as, “a team in transition. Everyone wants to be on a contender. It’s cyclical. Right now we’re not contending. We’re just trying to fight for an eighth spot.
“I just feel like I owe it to my teammates [to stay],” Nash said. “I like these guys a lot. I want to fight for them and see how good we can be. If we take our lumps, we take our lumps.
“I don’t knock anyone else. They’re in the prime of their careers. They’re trying to sign a max [contract]. Everyone’s situation is different. I’m not condemning anyone else.
“I’ve had some really good years here. I feel like I owe it to my friends and my teammates. I don’t feel it’s in my place to call for a trade.”
Maybe he won’t get his ring. He’ll always have those two Most Valuable Player trophies (the two Kobe Bryant tries to avenge every time they meet, and did so to the tune of 36 points in 35 minutes Friday night). And he’s left a stylish imprint on the game that’s evident every time you watch Lin or Chris Paul keep dribbling, circling, probing, even stopping in the middle of the lane when necessary.
“I wouldn’t want to take any credit for the way any other guys play,” Nash said. “Chris is fantastic and the best point guard out there. Any similarity is a compliment to me.”
It’s there. You don’t even have to watch that closely to see it. And you don’t need to have a vested interest in Nash to be curious to see what it would be like for him to chase a ring.
As strongly as the Miami Heat are coming on, they could still use a veteran point guard. Nash could help the Philadelphia 76ers with their halfcourt offense. And we all know the Lakers could use more from their point guards although he wouldn’t help with their defensive issues at the position.
It looks like any movement will have to wait until this summer when he becomes a free agent. He said he wants to play “two or three years, for sure” and maybe he can make a trip to the NBA Finals by then.
Just don’t expect it to happen this year.