Steve Nash not seeing game as finale

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash does not believe that Wednesday night's regular-season finale against San Antonio will be his last game in a Suns uniform.

"I'm not approaching it that way at all," Nash said by phone after the season's final morning shootaround. "I have no reason to believe that I won't be here next year. [Playing somewhere else is] something I really haven't even thought about."

Suns coach Alvin Gentry, for his part, echoes that approach.

Yet while Nash continues to insist that he will not push for a trade -- even after a season he openly describes as "very tiring, draining and disappointing" -- multiple sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that questions in the Suns' locker room about "what's going to happen with Steve," as one source described it, have been frequent as the season wound down.

Gentry nonetheless insists that management is clear about its desire to rebuild around Nash. Gentry also disputes the suggestion that a trade is looming before the start of next season that would turn Wednesday night into Nash's farewell to the desert. He has played for the Suns, who drafted him in 1996, for seven seasons since returning as a free agent in the summer of 2004.

"I don't think so," Gentry said. "I want him back, our franchise wants him back and I think Steve wants to be back. Obviously we have to make some changes to our team, but we would prefer for [Nash] not to be one of 'em.

"Steve is still playing at an incredibly high level. The only time he's struggled is when he's been physically hurt. He probably played 12 games where he shouldn't have even been out there. But you know Steve and what kind of competitor he is."

In February, Nash was adamant that he plans "to honor" the contract extension he signed with the Suns through 2011-12 despite his clear dismay with their overhauled roster after last season's trip to the Western Conference finals and the subsequent free-agent departure of star forward Amare Stoudemire to New York.

At the time, Gentry likewise told ESPN.com that the only scenario in which the Suns would even consider parting with the face of their franchise would require Nash to initiate the process by asking out.

Nash has consistently said that he won't take that step, no matter how frustrated he is with the Suns' 39-42 record. He's described himself as "old school," citing, among other factors, his deep roots in Phoenix and close bond with 38-year-old teammate Grant Hill.

But Nash's agent, Bill Duffy, subsequently appeared to crack the window open on a possible exit for his client, saying in a February interview with ESPN.com that he expected Nash's future in Phoenix to be reassessed by the Suns at season's end.

"Steve is a Phoenix Sun and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say he's the face of that franchise," Duffy said at the time. "But logic dictates that it would be prudent for the Suns to start looking at their long-term future in the summer, so we would expect that they may entertain moving him during the summer. We are ready for that and we anticipate a very respectful process if they decide to look at starting over with a younger core."

Two rival team executives likewise said this week that they believe the Suns have "softened" their no-trade stance on Nash, with one of those execs telling ESPN.com that he expects Phoenix to "try around the draft" to shop Nash and see how much they could possibly get back for him before the widely anticipated July 1 lockout.

The Suns initially tried to replace Stoudemire with newcomers Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick and a re-signed Channing Frye before quickly determining that Turkoglu was a poor fit. That in turn led to the December trade with Orlando that brought center Marcin Gortat and the cap-friendly contract of Vince Carter to Phoenix.

But the Suns gradually faded out of playoff contention despite Gortat's strong play, doomed by their lack of continuity, Nash's second-half health woes and a dropoff in bench production from last season.

Nash, though, told ESPN.com that he is determined not to let the prospect of a lengthy work stoppage impact his longevity, saying he wants to play at least two more years and maybe three if the 2011-12 season isn't wiped out.

Persistent trouble with what the Suns termed "pelvic instability" and a variety of related injuries couldn't prevent Nash from winning his fourth career assist title and becoming just the second player in league history (along with Utah legend John Stockton) to average better than 10 assists per game at age 37.

Nash went into Wednesday's season finale against the Spurs averaging 14.8 points, 11.4 assists and still shooting a robust 49.4 percent from the floor, giving him a player efficiency rating of 20.87, well above the league average.

"If it's a long lockout, I think you still have to try to make it a positive," Nash said. "So I've got to stay in great shape and make sure the time away where you're not putting mileage on your body is productive.

"I would have thought, before this depressing finish, that I'd want to play for another two or three years. Right now you have a tendency to feel [depressed], but when you get some distance from it you get motivated again, so I still feel that way."

Asked if playing until he's 40, like Stockton did, is important to him, Nash said: "It's not an age thing. I want to play as long as I enjoy it and as long as I'm physically able. Until I was banged up the last month or so, I think I played as well as I've ever played.

"So if I can continue to play at that level, it'd be a pleasure to keep playing and try to get things turned around to where [Phoenix is] back to where we were last year."

Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.