Sarver on playoffs: 'It still hurts, but time heals everything'

Also in Vancouver for Steve Nash's annual charity game last weekend was Suns owner Robert Sarver, who discussed a variety of topics with ESPN.com:

On surrendering two future first-round picks as part of Phoenix's payroll-slashing trade of Kurt Thomas to Seattle:

"It's hard. I went back and forth with [new Suns general manager Steve Kerr] a lot on that one.

"It's difficult, but the key for us is that we're right there, so the most important thing we can do is keep our core together for the next three years. And so we have to make some sacrifices [such as trading Thomas to save $8 million in luxury taxes]. Keeping our core together was [priority] No. 1, keeping the [2008 unprotected first-round] pick from Atlanta was No. 2 and the other picks ... trading them was something we had to do."

On the criticism he's getting for the Suns selling three first-round picks in the past two drafts before giving up two firsts in the Thomas trade:

"I'll be [called] the cheap baker all the time, but it's not true. Based on the NBA statistics that were done by [the league's] consulting firm, we're the 24th-best market in the NBA from a revenue standpoint. It's hard for us to have the second-highest payroll, but we can have the ninth- or eighth- or seventh-highest payroll because our fans really support us.

"But we have to work within those constraints. We want to be good long-term. Our goal is to have sustained success, so we have to kind of balance our budget a little bit.

"I think by and large our fans understand. Our fans pay to watch Steve and Amare [Stoudemire] and Shawn [Marion] and Leandro [Barbosa] and Raja [Bell] and Boris [Diaw]. Our core is still together and by picking up Grant, I think we're better today than we were a month ago. And that's what's important."

On whether Suns management has convinced Amare Stoudemire that he wasn't nearly traded to Atlanta on draft day to make room for Kevin Garnett:

"Yeah, because we never were talking about trading him. Things just kind of get a momentum of their own and there's a lot of [media] talk. He's fine. He knows. He knows he's not going anywhere."

On Garnett's reported interest in playing in Phoenix if he indeed finally leaves the Timberwolves:

"I think a lot of people have an interest in Phoenix with the way we play and the fact that were good and competitive. It's great to hear.

"Same with Grant Hill. He had a number of offers for a lot more money and the fact that people want to come play with us, that's something we have to use to our advantage in terms of being able to bring in one or two really good players each year at a lower price to help us because they want to be here."

On signing Hill:

"He was at the top of our list given our budget constraints. We couldn't go out and spend a lot of money, but the fact that he chose to come to Phoenix for a lot less money than he could have gotten someplace else, I'm really excited.

"He's another playmaker, he's got experience and he's complete classy guy, which everybody knows. And he feels he's got a few years left of basketball in him. He thinks he's [still] got the ability to be an All-Star."

On how much longer he expects Nash to play:

"Since he came to Phoenix, he's gotten better every year. Obviously he's not going to play forever, but I can see him playing for the next three, four years easily. I think the window's got three more years in it and maybe longer depending on whether he wants to keep playing and how he feels."

On the Suns' controversial second-round exit to San Antonio:

"I don't think about it as much [two months later], but you don't get a lot of opportunities to win a championship and that was an opportunity for us. It still hurts, but time heals everything."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.