Eight more days to stew. Eight more days to weigh an array of choices that make a dinner buffet look specialized. And eight more days to envision the life after the playing is over and whether this free agency decision is a ladder or a chute. Look, both Deron Williams and Steve Nash will still be wealthy enough no matter what happens to adopt a pastime in the future to forget about this decision if it’s the wrong one. But you get the feeling if it goes right, they’re set up long after they put the ball down.
Eight days arrives at July 11, the first day players can sign with teams in free agency. Every day until then is one we, as basketball observers, sit on Twitter or by our cell phones and watch for which color of smoke appears. The announcements of Nash and Williams are two of the most anticipated despite their 10-year age difference. There’s another thing in common they hold, too, and not just their position: This contract is a chance to return to a home of sorts. A similar decision that would have far different consequences for each in the short and long term, however.
Williams calls DFW home like the heat that sticks to the city. He’s narrowed the list to the Nets and Mavericks, and this is a chance to be a winner, either way. With Joe Johnson headed to Brooklyn and Dwight Howard wanting only to be traded there, the Nets are the next Big Three Du Jour, it would seem. Ah, but Dallas beckons with Dirk Nowitzki and the chance to be treated by Mark Cuban and a city as what the Mavs should have had if Nash hadn’t bolted for Phoenix all those years ago. With all due respect to Jason Kidd and his role in 2011’s title, he arrived in Dallas just past his prime. It’s really an emotional pull that Cuban will make, because his team is the older car that’s rapidly losing value that you’ve coveted all your life owning nonetheless. He can offer a city’s love, a mountain of cash and the chance to carve out his own Texas-sized legend. Remember, Williams grew up and played high school ball in a suburb just north of Dallas called The Colony — and you get the feeling Dallas would pull up walls around Williams and fight for him just like an old Western outpost should he sign there. It’s not a move to play with Dirk, after all. It’s a chance for Dirk to play with Williams. He’s only 28, so there’s some doubt this would be his last team — but if it were, a career in the front office could be waiting should he prefer.
Toronto is not Vancouver, but the death of the Grizzlies in Nash’s British Columbia home gives but one option if he wants Canadian professional basketball to be anything but a cold trip across the border for the rest of the NBA. Toronto can offer more than a legacy, though: Try $36 million over three years. But they’ll lose often. And badly. And that trip home won’t seem so nice next March when Nash’s patience is starting to wear thing when Terrence Ross and DeMar Derozan put up shots still too often for the point guard’s liking, and the inside game is (still) nonexistent. Miami and New York woo him, though for different pay grades, but the chances to win in those huge media markets is still much greater than in Toronto. Either way, Williams can win by choosing New Jersey (where only winning would keep him there post-playing career) and Dallas (where a red carpet awaits). But for Nash, it’s this: country and legacy later or wins now? I seriously doubt he could have all three in one spot. Don’t doubt the role Canada plays in his hoops existence after being named GM of the Canadian national team in May. Toronto is where he could set the hook for the next generation of players from up north.
Two players, two decisions to make a homecoming of sorts. The same decision, though, has drastically different outcomes.
What should Nash and Williams do?
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