LeBron James tells Steve Nash just where he likes to receive his passes. Not tampering, though (Getty Images)
Steve Nash, in the midst of a series of promotional phone calls on Thursday, told the "Dan Patrick Show" that he "would definitely listen" to any offer the Miami Heat might make to the All-Star guard when he becomes a free agent this summer. Though Nash's Phoenix Suns are still technically in the playoff hunt, and the Heat can't go on record as being interested in the guard, this somehow doesn't seem all that distasteful. As it is with Jason Terry's comments, if his current team is going to leave Nash dangling a bit, why not be honest in answering the questions?
Tossing another superstar Miami's way feels even more distasteful. With so many very good NBA teams (your Denvers, your Houstons) keeping their heads above water with great coaching and excellent depth, it's more than frustrating that these superstars are either grouped together on squads that are struggling to go over the top (Miami), struggling to play well even at healthy full force (New York), or on top-heavy teams with absolutely no depth beneath the stars (both Los Angeles teams).
This one would seem to work, though, because Steve Nash makes everything work, always and forever. Which is kind of weird to say about a guy with fewer rings than DeShawn Stevenson. Steve Nash, even at 90 percent of the production he's come through with this season (his 2011-12 Player Efficiency Rating, you'll note, is slightly higher than the one he came through with during his final year in Dallas during 2003-04), would be absolutely perfect for the 2012-13 Miami Heat because he's absolutely perfect at everything. The only problem here (besides my creepy fawning) is whether or not Nash can live with himself.
This is a man who refused to push for a deal to another team at the trade deadline, and perhaps his best chance at a title, probably because he didn't want to be perceived as one of those guys. We understand that Nash wants to see out the commitment he made to his teammates at last December's training camp, and to the organization that signed him to his contract extension in 2009 -- seemingly overpaying that summer for the 35-year-old; after seemingly overpaying in 2004 for Nash, after seemingly reaching to draft him in 1996.
We get that. We also understand comfort level, and the fact that a deal to a semi-contending team at the trade deadline for a few months before free agency probably wouldn't be worth all the hassle if a championship wasn't just about guaranteed. We get that Nash would probably rather be patient and have a clean slate come July to be in charge of, rather than being dealt to a new situation in a new town on the fly without fully being in control of the destination, all at age 38. We understand it. Be in charge of that clean slate, Steve.
But even if perception isn't the driving force, and even if Nash doesn't really care what you or I or talk radio and cable TV chatterers think, the reaction to Nash joining the black hats (and almost assured; with some inevitably calling it unearned, ring) in Miami would be swift and brutal.
Nash put the screws on Phoenix publicly on Thursday, let there be no doubt, but this news ("I like to play with really good basketball players," essentially) is absolutely nothing new. The team designed his and his teammates' contracts so that the Suns would have plenty of cap room to work with in the summer of 2012, and with just $31 million on the books before any Nash deal, they'll have space to improve. They'll also have about five roster spots to fill even after Nash takes a chunk out of that room with his salary, which isn't easy. Even with the space in hand, and Nash's willingness to re-sign, the Suns are going to have to get awfully creative. Because the roster is so decimated, they'll have to procure a major star even if Nash comes back just to attempt to rank in the top six in the West.
And do you see any major stars available this summer? At his age, sadly, does Dirk Nowitzki even count? Big in name, sure, but would a triptych of those two plus Gortat and a bunch of minimum salaries threaten the bigs in the West? Sure, I'd move to Arizona (even) and buy season tickets, but that's not the point. And that's just utilizing the 0.00000000000017 chance that Dirk would leave Dallas as a free agent this offseason.
The solution, from there, is for Nash to go a-courtin'. Dallas would obviously work, Nash and owner Mark Cuban still have healthy respect for the decisions they made in splitting Nash and Dallas up in 2004, but the younger Deron Williams seems to have an eye for Cuban's team and vice versa. The other obvious choice you'll hear is New York, where Nash lives in the offseason, ready to take on all the tired storylines we'll have to put together about Steve acting as a mentor (as a sympathetic relative slow-starter in the NBA) to Jeremy Lin, possibly teaming with good buddies Baron Davis and Amar'e Stoudemire in the process. Then there's Chicago, if only because a boy like me can dream of a Nash and Derrick Rose backcourt, sponsored by Jameson and with a re-united Crusaders original lineup playing at every halftime.
There are other teams with cap space where Nash would fit, as we pour over the pages, but the addition of a 38-year-old for those squads doesn't make much sense, nor does the pairing for Nash as he heads into the winter he's been holding off for years.
Miami works, though. And, as it is with most squads save for Dallas (which has legitimate cap space even after Nowitzki returns), Nash would have to play for a minimum deal or a veteran's exception. And even assuming for the decline that Nash continues to remarkably stave off, he'll be a massive upgrade over Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole even when considering Nash's defensive limitations. Both players are struggling to knock in one of every three shots they take since the All-Star break, a bad time for a swoon that can get in your head before the playoffs. Or, a good time to get it out of your system. Either way, Steve Nash.
He'd have to look like one of Those Guys, though, and that's going to be hard for him to take — even if Steve Nash shouldn't think twice before going to a championship-level team that needs him the most and covets his presence.
This is how it should be for anyone who chooses to stay in charge of such things. Just as long as you don't involve Jim Gray, as I see it, anyone who chases a ring above all gets a pass. No pun intended.
The best transcription of Nash's entire interview with Patrick can be found at Sports Radio Interviews.
- Steve Nash
- Miami Heat