Top free agent Steve Nash persuaded Phoenix Sun management to deal him to the Los Angeles Lakers last week in a sign-and-trade, stunning the basketball world.
Nash had been with the Phoenix Suns for eight seasons, signing with them as a free agent during the 2003-04 off season over the Dallas Mavericks on an extremely lucrative offer.
He quickly proved to be one of the NBA’s best, averaging 15.5 points per game and 11.5 assists per game, winning the Most Valuable Player in his first year with the Suns. The successes continued, Nash won MVP honours again the next year, cementing his place as one of the best point guards ever, definitely the best all-time Canadian point guard.
He continued to play well, leading his Suns to playoff runs, but only getting as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2006 and just missed out on winning the MVP for the third consecutive time.
However, despite the post season failures, Nash was, and still is, beloved by the Phoenix community. He’s the reason behind their success and without him orchestrating the run-and-gun offence former head coach Mike D’antoni instilled, Phoenix would not have won so many games.
It’s no secret to the rest of the NBA that Nash is the heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns. Even when he was not surrounded by the most amazing talent – like some would say was lacking in Phoenix over the last two seasons – he still managed to average double-digits in assists and points.
Phoenix adopted the nice-guy persona that Nash brought to the team, he almost made it okay not to win big in the playoffs because everybody was satisfied with the easy-going and fun-loving Nash being their floor general.
But, as all fairy tales usually do, the journey came to an end. Nash is no longer age-defying and became a free agent, and like every competitive spirit, his will to win began to motivate him.
Rapidly approaching 40, he entered the offseason looking for a team that put him in the best position to win championships. At first, the initial belief was one of three situations: return to Phoenix, sign with the upstart New York Knicks, or sign with the star-desperate Toronto Raptors, who presented Nash with the most money. But, at this point in his career, money was far down the priority list.
The bidding wars began, Phoenix falling from grace early on in the negotiations and the Knicks and Raptors were the last teams standing. The Raptors offered Nash the most lucrative offer he would receive, a three-year, $36 million contract was put on the table for him.
However, accepting that means forfeiting any chances of winning his first NBA ring. So, Toronto was a long shot. The New York Knicks situation was much more appealing: a young, but talented Jeremy Lin would be taken under Nash’s wing, Nash would be reunited with his devastating pick-and-roll counterpart in Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash lived in New York during the summers too.
Oh, there’s also Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler (Defensive Player of the Year) on the team too. The obvious choice seemed to be with New York, who emerged as the frontrunner early on.
However, as many things happen in this world, the unexpected took place. In a stunning turnaround, a report came out that Nash had decided to join the Lakers. A sign-and-trade is to take place in which the Lakers receive Nash for four draft picks.
The contract is for three years, with Nash getting $27 million. What made the deal even more astonishing, was that prior to the announcement, a previous interview that morning had Nash saying: “I could never wear a Laker jersey, I’ve spent too many years trying to beat them. We’ve had too many playoff encounters, it just wouldn’t feel right.” Famous last words.
What finally swayed Nash’s thoughts was a phone call, not just any phone call, one from five time NBA champion Kobe Bryant who convinced him to join forces with him. It all seemed to make sense to Nash and now he has a hall-of-fame off-guard, a two-time champion power forward and arguably the second best centre in all the NBA in Andrew Bynum to play beside.
Laker fans do not seem to be handling the surprising news with relish. “Well now we’ve got the best passing point guard of all time on our team – well he’s second to Magic Johnson but there’s none better than him right now,” explained long-time local Laker fan Nicholas Powell,
“Our offence should be much improved, our low post play should take a huge step forward now that we’ve got better entry passes coming, our pick and rolls automatically improve too.
“The one thing that concerns me is Nash’s on-ball defence, against players like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Tony Parker it could be tough. But our team defence is always good. I’ll say one thing: we’ve definitely got the smartest team in basketball now.”
Nash’s passing brilliance will make an obvious difference, but ball movement should be the key as he might be able to optimise the passing talents of Pau Gasol, who some consider as the best passing big man in basketball.
Another local Laker fan in Bradley Galbraith seems a little more sceptical than satisfied, “Nash wants to win a championship, and LA is definitely a place he can do that,” he said, “If we can pick up Dwight Howard then we would be unstoppable, but cap space probably won’t let that happen. Gasol is going to have to show us all something this year though, Nash definitely improves our team across the board, but him and Kobe can’t do it alone.”
Sharing his scepticism is die-hard Laker fan, and local baseball star, Christopher Bennett. “To be honest, I’m not sure how happy I am about the trade. Don’t get me wrong, Nash can still get it done with the best of them, but he’s up there in years,” he said.
“I’m just concerned about the age factor.” Steve Nash is 38 and signed a contract that will keep him in Lakerland until 41 when he will be one of the oldest players in the NBA.