Less than seven months after the Phoenix Suns came within two wins of reaching the NBA Finals, the franchise’s roster has been overturned so thoroughly that only six players from that title-contending team remain. Even the general manager has left town, not to mention the All-Star forward.
And after the Suns completed a six-player trade with the Orlando Magic on Saturday – exchanging Jason Richardson(notes), Hedo Turkoglu(notes) and Earl Clark(notes) for Vince Carter(notes), Marcin Gortat(notes) and Mickael Pietrus(notes) – one question hung over the desert:
The answer, according to the Suns, is no.
“We have no intention of trading Steve,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Yahoo! Sports. “The guy is one of the top point guards in the league. I don’t know why we’d consider trading him. The chances of that happening are slim and none.”
Nash’s agent, Bill Duffy, also said Suns owner Robert Sarver told him the team doesn’t have any intention of dealing its All-Star point guard. Nash has one year left on his contract after this season at a reasonable $11.7 million.
“He’s a treasure to the fans there,” Duffy said. “He’s revered there. There is enough of a relationship between Steve Nash and the Suns that if something were to transpire we’d be sure Steve would be involved in the process. Sarver has called me to tell me that nothing is going on with Steve.
“He’s everything. He’s the identity of the organization.”
Given that the Suns repeatedly change course with their personnel decisions – they just traded for Turkoglu in July to help offset Amar’e Stoudemire’s(notes) departure to New York – that won’t stop many people from speculating the franchise could move Nash if it starts to fade from the playoff race. For now, the Suns are saying they’re still committed to having Nash lead their transition. Gentry said he spoke in depth with Nash about the ramifications of the latest trade.
“Steve is on board with it,” Gentry said. “He said we needed protection defensively. We got Gortat, Pietrus. But he also said we got to get Vince back to being the old Vince.”
Carter turns 34 next month and is averaging a career-low 15.1 points this season. He’s made just 18 percent of his 3-point attempts on the road this season compared to 51.3 percent at the Magic’s new arena. Gentry is optimistic Nash and the Suns’ up-tempo offense will benefit Carter.
“Vince is one of the most talented guys in the NBA,” Gentry said. “We got to get him back playing to that level. We hate to lose J-Rich, but to get a player of [Carter’s] caliber we had to give something.
“Vince can also handle the ball some, too. That’s what I love about him. I think he will really flourish in our style of play. He’ll be able to do more things, create his own shot. I am excited about it.”
Gentry said the Suns’ new starting five will be Nash and Carter in the backcourt, Grant Hill(notes) at small forward, Channing Frye(notes) at power forward and Robin Lopez(notes) at center. Pietrus will become a key wing defender off the bench while Gortat will back up Lopez, who has had trouble staying healthy. Gentry believes the trade gives the 12-13 Suns the potential to become a playoff team.
“Gortat gives us size and protects us defensively,” Gentry said. “We got to get better defensively to get into the playoffs. We made a trade based on improvement. Grant was wearing down defensively. Pietrus can help.”
Gentry was sad to see Richardson leave after he made a strong contribution in his two years with the Suns. He didn’t feel the same way about Turkoglu, who averaged 9.5 points, four rebounds and 2.3 assists since coming over in a trade with the Toronto Raptors.
“It wasn’t a good fit,” Gentry said. “I thought it would be a better fit. It didn’t work out. That was a disappointment.”