Yesterday Steve Nash appeared on two radio shows on ESPN. Subsequently, ESPN pushed a headline stating "Nash talks Heat as Free Agent" and soundbited [if that is a word] his comment completely out of context.
"I'm not coming back to the Suns if there isn't improvement," Nash told "The Dan Patrick Show".
In talking with Bill Simmons, a subdued and relaxed Nash spoke about a number of different things, including taking a comic stab at his bench [irrational confidence guys] and about the real probability of being traded. Then on the Dan Patrick Show, Nash went so far as to suggest that he indeed will look elsewhere if the Suns don't make a serious effort to improve. Although, while listening to his actual comments, I didn't get as uneasy a feeling that ESPN's headline made me feel.
About a week before the trade deadline, I wanted to write this piece but had little time to do so. Now I am mad that i didn't do it. What struck me with Nash's comments was not that ESPN pushed headlines making his statement seem definitive and final, but that saying the things he said, in the context in which he said, only reinforced what I thought a month ago:
Steve Nash is no different than LeBron, Dwight, Deron or any of these players.
Now, I know that a lot of you will rally against me, but before you do, hear me out...First, I have been a huge fan of Nash. As a basketball coach for 20 years, I have been elated that Nash elevated his game to the point that I can point to him as an example of how to play for all of my players, as opposed to guys like Marbury or Iverson. He is an amazing player and my opinion of him as such hasn't changed. I also believe he has 3-4 really good years left in him and that he is still a top 3 POINT GUARD in this league [yes, i realize guys like Rose are great, but they are not point guards...but that is a different story]. Frankly, the fact that so many people talk about this situation shows how good he still is. I mean, Tim Duncan's contract is up but are we hearing anything like this about Duncan? [more on that in a second].
Despite my affection for his play, I believe Nash to be as disingenuous as any of the other players mentioned. But before I tell you why, I want to talk about LeBron.
Sure, LeBron James was certainly not the first star athlete to dictate his desires to his team. Back in the 80's Magic got Paul Westhead fired and Jordan got Doug Collins booted. There are numerous examples where players stood ahead of the coach and GM in the pecking order, so this is not a new phenomenon. And because of the way free agency and the trading deadline are structured, players now have the ability to dictate not only who their coach is, but who their teammates are or even where they want to play. Some liken the move to holding a team hostage. I, in fact, think that the act of using leverage is all part of business and believe that doing so is far more ethical than what the recent trend has been.
"So you are saying that it is OK for Nash to leverage himself to a contender?"
"Well, then your whole premise about Nash is wrong!"
Let's face it, if star player "A" tells the media/team/public BEFORE THE DEADLINE, "Hey, this team is bad, I want to win, they need to change things or I am absolutely out of here!" then the team has all of the information they need to make a decision one way or another.
The problem we had with James was that for two years prior to the end of his contract, James stated publicly that he wanted to stay in Cleveland. You may believe that he meant what he said. The idea was that while there is the slight possibility of leaving, he really wanted to stay and wanted the Cavs to do something with the team to make them a contender. Granted, this was a team that won 66 games in the regular season. All they needed to do was make some tweaks and they could easily win a championship. They fired the coach, fired the GM and did all but hire James as the CEO of the Cavs. What did James do? He kept towing the same old line until after the trade deadline. Then he walked, just like he always was going to do.
The issue with these players is that they are acting like a hot girl at a bar. You know, the girls who smile at you, flirts with you, makes you think you are getting somewhere. They let you buy them drinks and spend time with them. They tell you how cute you are and how much fun they have with you. And you are on top of the world. Here you are, this hot victoria secret model who is in to you - you ignore everyone else, including your friends. Then you go to the bathroom. When you come out you see hot girl getting a drink from some other dude, hearing her say the same things to him. You realize you have been duped, feel like crap and decide to go find your friends and get the heck out of there, only to find that your friends have already left because you abandoned them.And now you have no ride home.
girls players are stringing us along, telling us everything we want to hear and making themselves seem like they want to be with us, but in reality they are just trying to manipulate us and in the end, we are stranded. If LeBron had said he was leaning toward leaving prior to the deadline and that he wanted to go to Miami and asked the team to make it happen, it would have been better than what happened. If Dwight would simply say that he wants to play with Deron Williams and if that cant happen there, he will leave, then the outcome would be better for the Magic than if he pretends to want to stay in Orlando and waits until after the deadline to start making threats of leaving.
So back to Nash. Up until the deadline, Nash was very careful and diligent with his words. He deflected any notion that he wanted to be traded. He affirmed multiple times that he loved the franchise, felt a sense of loyalty to it, and didn't want to ask for a trade. When incessantly confronted with destination possibilities, Nash played coy and usually reverted back to saying how he liked where he is and doesn't want to leave. He never left any doubt that he was in Phoenix. Even the basketball pundits stopped bothering after a while because they believed the concept that "as long as the Suns want me, I am going to be a Suns player.'
To me, Steve Nash was saying all of the things to lead the Suns to believe that he isn't going anywhere. He never mentioned improving the team as a condition of his consideration. He never talked about other teams. Never.
Not until after the trade deadline. Now, he likes Miami and would listen. He states unequivocally that without serious improvement, he will leave. No coyness. No wavering. No diverting the subject.
This isn't a matter of loyalty. I don't believe Nash owes any sense of loyalty to this franchise. This is business. This is their career. It is his duty to his family to ensure he is in the best financial and emotional situation he can be in for as long as he can. That means using leverage to gain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The problem I have is not a sense of loyalty, but honesty. If you are going to go out of your way to portray yourself as an honest and genuine person, then your actions should carry on in such a manner, despite the fact that a deadline has passed and you now have the ability to change your strategy. Nash isn't any different than James. he is just smarter and better at PR than James is.
Nash should have made his comments PRIOR TO THE DEADLINE and I would have been fine with it. But he didn't simply because, as he stated "of the unknown, who knows what would happen." I take that to mean that he knew that if he was honest and truthful about his feelings, the Suns would have traded him and he would not have any say about where he would end up. He also knew that none of the teams he wanted to go to had the assets or ability to acquire him and he would end up in Sacramento or Golden State. He purposefully led us to believe he wants to be a Suns player as long as we wanted him, but really meant that he wants to be a Suns player only if the alternative is being King, Bobcat or Hornet. But if a Laker or Heat jersey were available, and he could have been assured that would happen, I'll bet he would have been publicly talking about those teams.
What really irritates me is that he has publicly changed his story at a time now when we have no ability to do anything about it. Of course, he could prove me wrong and re-sign with the Suns. [And please Steve, prove me wrong. Please!!!]
But I now believe that won't happen. I see no ability to improve this team dramatically enough to keep Nash. The Suns FO made the same egregious error I made: believing that Nash was ours and he was going nowhere.
Nash is no different than the others. He played his hand, and will end up on some championship team. Some of you will be happy about it, because you fall for those hot girls everytime.
I am not happy about it. Why? Because I am a Suns fan, and that guy will have played us, then left us without a ride home. Bitch!