July 21, 2009
I know I've preached fiscal responsibility all summer. I know that Steve Nash probably won't be worth $11 million in 2011-12. I'm not even sure if he'll be worth that next season, when he'll make around $13.5 million. And I know that the Suns, I'm sorry, just don't really seem to have a cogent plan of attack in the personnel department.
The team was too cheap to keep a series of first round picks, but they also paid the luxury tax last season. Too bottom line-driven to be major players this summer, should they decide to suss out trades, but not nervous at all about extending Nash or keeping Grant Hill(notes) around. Alarmingly cocksure and uneasy, all at once.
There's nothing wrong with paying good money for an exciting team that should fill the stadium, even if it falls short of the playoffs again. Nothing wrong with holding serve until you see how Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) plays upon his return from eye surgery. Nothing wrong with keeping Nash, the man who spearheaded your 2004-05 turnaround, in the fold until retirement age.
It just feels like a downer. For years, the Suns were everyone's second-favorite team, and it just bums me (and, I'm sure, others) out to see them fade away like this — while retaining the particulars that made them so brilliant in the first place.
Usually fading away entails trading the superstars and rebuilding, and while the Suns aren't exactly lottery material (I wouldn't even be that surprised if they got it together long enough to challenge for home court advantage in the first round next year), this team is hardly championship-worthy. At this point, at least.
There's so much blame to go around, and that's not easy for some fans. Steve Kerr erred in trading for Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and hiring Terry Porter, but it's not his fault Robert Sarver traded all those draft picks. And it's not Sarver's fault that Mike D'Antoni sold him on Marcus Banks(notes). And we were all sold on Boris Diaw(notes), back in 2006, weren't we? I don't want to hear any revisionist history on that.
It's not Kerr or Sarver or D'Antoni's fault (even though he was inches away) that Stoudemire and Diaw left the bench in 2007, possibly Phoenix's best chance at taking the title. Nobody's fault that Joe Johnson(notes) fell so hard in 2005, or that a desperate Atlanta Hawks team decided to pay Johnson like a franchise savior a few months later.
A million different reasons, all sorts of little heroes and little villains, lots of heartbreak, and no easy answers.
The solution to this? Pay Steve Nash. Keep him around. Keep the Suns fun. Even if he's turning the ball over too much. Even if he can't guard anyone.
Doesn't matter. Pay him. Remind us of the way we felt, watching him dash around in garbage time in 1996-97. Remind us of the way we felt, after initially balking at the contract terms ("five years and $55 million? He's thirty! They're kidding us with that sixth year, Phoenix will never pick that up."), to the basketball calculations in our head that followed ("Nash on the break with Marion, and a healthy Stoudemire? Hmm.").
Remind us of 2004-05, even when it's 2011-12. For a lot of us, that's when basketball changed. That's when our relationship with the game turned, in a good way. Nostalgia might not be healthy, but it sure can be fun.
So, yeah, I'm cool with it. And I think you'll be as well.