It would seem my personal crusade this week is to try and argue against the rest of the NBA world who is convinced that the Phoenix Suns either will, or at least should, trade Steve Nash. My own rantings, combined with the evidence that the Suns aren't the least bit interested in making such a move, have obviously not convinced anyone.
Alvin Gentry took the highly unusual step of publicly saying that if the team trades Nash, he's going with him. GM Lance Blanks called the idea that the Suns would trade Nash "ludicrous." Not a single "rumor" actually documents anything more than outsiders stating what they think the Suns should do and the occasional report that other teams -- ahem, New York Knicks -- will make inquiries.
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All of that doesn't matter, as evidenced by yet another "the Suns should trade Nash" story, this time from my friend Evan Dunlap, who wrote a very nice retrospective on the Nash/Stoudemire era before concluding that they should reunite:
Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, And The Sad End Of The Suns' Run - SBNation.com
But based on this season's early returns, it's hard to argue that reuniting that devastating duo, under D'Antoni's stewardship, wouldn't benefit both players, not to mention the fans.
So let's try another approach here since strong public denials have done nothing to convince people that this is not going to happen.
1. History is a strong guide
Think back to how many opportunities the Suns and Robert Sarver had to trade Amare at multiple trade deadlines or the Summer of 2009. The fact that he passed up opportunities to do what many outsiders considered to be the "smart" move in the face of losing Amare for nothing should demonstrate how he thinks. He believes in his team and his team has proven him right. He wants to win and has zero patience for running a rebuilding team. That's why Amare stayed a Sun as long as he did and that's why Nash will, as well.
2. Nowhere close to being done
Maybe (maybe) perhaps, IF the Suns are well and truly out of it in February AND the offer was overwhelming, they could (possibly) consider it. But I doubt it.
Right now, if anything, the Suns rightly feel they are ahead of their own internal expectations and look forward to this season with an eye towards getting better, not getting worse. It's easy to not see it after a blowout on national TV to the almighty Heat, but this team absolutely believes in itself and are a LONG way from giving up hope. A LONG LONG way.
And this might seem like a radical notion, but what the Suns believe about themselves matters a lot more than what Ric Bucher or Chris Mannix or anyone else thinks about them. Crazy, huh?
Remember the season they are coming off of last year, with the lesson learned from busting through expectations and reaching the WCF. If anything, the way the Suns have played so far this (very early) season proves they can be more competitive than people think. The new pieces like Warrick, Childress and yes, even Turkoglu, are fitting in and, while the loss of Lopez is a set back, it's not like he's been tearing it up through the first nine games, either.
Yes, the Suns have flaws and no, the Suns are not a legit contender for the NBA title, but how many teams are? Should all the teams outside of LA, Boston, Orlando and Miami just give up on the season now that we are in the middle of November and the "experts" have written them off?
With Portland's health issues and the much more likely Carmelo Anthony trade, there's no reason to think the Suns won't be in the playoff hunt and as long as they are in the mix, Nash isn't going nowhere. Even if they aren't in the mix, it's highly unlikely they would make the same mistake Detroit did by trading Billups too soon.
3. Rebuilding doesn't work
Sarver has no desire (or financial wherewithal) to preside over a long-term rebuild project. He's stated time and again that he would rather be a fun, competitive non-contender for as long as possible as opposed to blowing it up and hoping to somehow, someday find another superstar. And with the new CBA coming and his own current economic situation, it's a smart business decision, as well. Losing Nash would cost the team money.
To get even more analytical, there's simply not enough examples of teams trading their stars and successfully rebuilding in a reasonable period of time.
Even the Lakers were at best mediocre after they traded Shaq. It wasn't until years later that they were able to steal Pau Gasol from Jerry West that they became good again. And oh, by the way, they've been able to stay good because they can afford to be $25m over the luxury tax, which allowed them to keep Lamar Odom along with the highly-paid Gasol, Bryant, Bynum and Artest. They can afford to live with $10.6m going to Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton. Oops, oh well.
On the flip side, there are a ton of teams who have struggled for years in the lottery and aren't anywhere close to the level the Suns are at now. Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Wizards, etc., etc., etc.
The only examples on the other side are perhaps Portland and OKC, but it's taken both of those teams a long time to get where they are now and they are not exactly the Lakers, Magic or Celtics (all teams, by the way, that led the league with the highest payrolls -- coincidence?).
4. New York makes the least sense
Don't be so sure Nash wants to reunite with Mike D'Antoni and Amare. He's been there and done that and I would contend that his personal relationships in Phoenix (Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, etc.) are stronger than the pull of those departed friends. Amare and Nash weren't exactly BFFs and he's not made a single comment indicating he wants to play with those guys again. Nash was great friends with Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa, but we are not talking about him going to Utah, Charlotte or Toronto.
The outsiders and observers want more Nash/Amare pick-and-roll and Lord knows the league and plenty of others on that side of the coast are dying for the Knicks to be good. But seriously, while the Knicks with Nash instead of Felton are much better, they are by no means a contender. Especially when you consider they would have to give up some of their assets to get Nash in the first place.
Nash, Amare, D'Antoni and no depth doesn't work very well and Steve doesn't have 3 or 4 years left to wait for New York to slowly build up the role players needed to make them good. Yes, if Carmelo Anthony goes to the Knicks AND Nash goes to the Knicks then you have an interesting team. But how in the world could they possibly pull off trades for both of those guys?
Ironically, if you wanted to make the case that the Suns would seriously consider a Nash trade this season -- which is not going to happen -- then the team to look at is Toronto. They have more young pieces. They have draft picks. They have far more of what a team contemplating rebuilding -- which the Suns are not -- would covet. They also have just as strong of a motivation to want Nash for the final part of his career.
We are talking about New York for two reasons. 1) This is what the New York media does. They are worse than a bunch of fan forum fantasy trade hacks. 2) Wistful memories and longing for the NBA's greatest pick-and-roll combination.
It was beautiful. We all miss it. But it's over. Move on and make YouTube your friend if you need your fix of this.
Here's an example and there's many more available, so anytime you get the urge to revisit this devastating combination hit up YouTube and leave the silly trade ideas alone.
5. That pick-and-roll wasn't as simple as we remember
I'm a sucker, I know, but I can't resist the urge to get a little basketball geeky here on this topic. As someone who watched the Nash/Amare pick-and-roll over the years, there's a few things to remember.
When it was just Nash/Amare, it wasn't that good. Sure, the two-man game beat bad defensive teams and it would always, on occasion, during the course of a game, beat great defensive teams for a few spectacular plays. But for the Nash/Amare pick-and-roll to truly reach the heights of its potential, it took the right three other players being on the court.
The peak was last season when the Suns were able to surround Nash/Amare with Frye, Hill and Richardson. You had guys that not only could space the floor and hit threes, but even when the threes weren't falling, both Grant and JRich could create opportunities off secondary action when teams collapsed on the roll.
In other words, the pick-and-roll became more dangerous because there were so many other legit offensive options that teams had to respect. Think back to the earlier days when the Spurs repeatedly beat the Suns in the playoffs. They did it because they were able to take away the primary one or two weapons the Suns had and there weren't enough additional counter threats.
Even the Lakers in the WCF last season never were able to slow down the Suns attack. They were just a better offensive and rebounding team because of their size and because Kobe made incredible individual plays.
Last season, with Hill's ability to pass and drive and JRich's ability to shoot and score and Frye's ability to draw a big out of the lane, it was a thing of beauty. It wasn't the two man game that was great. It was the five man game.
It was the plays the Suns would run that started as a high pick-and-roll but really were designed plays for Nash to quickly pass to Hill on the wing who would then pass to Amare rolling. It was what the Suns did to the Blazers in the playoffs once it was clear that their plan for the series was to pack the paint and not allow Nash/Amare to beat them.
What made the pick-and-roll so deadly was the way it fit into the entire picture. Those things are not going to be replicated by putting Nash/Amare back together. Sure, you will get more highlight reel dunks and incredibly awesome passes, but you won't get enough to lift a team over the top ... unless the Knicks are interested in trading Amare to Phoenix.