Words. Dave Dulberg
During a troubling time in the state’s sports scene, Arizona’s aficionados are comforted by the grace in his fadeaway jump shot, the unnatural ease by which he floats through the lane and the work ethic he puts on display hours before the US Airways Center is even near capacity. Steve Nash isn’t just a two-time MVP or a seven-time All-Star, he’s the face of not only a fading Phoenix Suns team, but of a city whose professional sports identity has withered away in recent years as iconic stars like Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Kurt Warner quietly walked away when their ticking clocks finally wound down.
But with Nash’s Suns falling further behind in the Western Conference standings (15-21), currently sitting in the uncomfortable position of 11th place, where does Suns owner Robert Sarver and Co. go from here? Perhaps Chris Webber was right: It may finally be time to “Free Steve Nash.”
In the sports world of political correctness, how do you handle the future of your most attractive ticket seller, your primary billboard subject and without question, your franchise savior? Do you ship him off to a situation where he deservedly has a chance to win a championship? Do you handle him with kid gloves, telling him everything will be okay? Or do you stay the course, and view the situation like any other player personnel decision; trading him only if the other party involved is willing to giveaway lucrative pieces in return?
Sarver and his new minion of puppets – President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and first-time General Manager Lance Banks – have a situation on their hands that frankly, they created this offseason.
In a move that many lauded them for, the team refused to cave in to Amar’e Stoudemire‘s demands for a five-year, $100 million dollar contract, citing past injuries (microfracture surgery and the detached retina which cost him the final 30-plus games of the 2009 season). Sarver, without the player evaluation prowess of former-GM Steve Kerr, was now forced to play the role of a fantasy sports owner and said goodbye to the once-thought-to-be future face of the franchise.
The only problem is that he had never thought to make a Plan B, C or even D.
Lots of money, plus an owner desperate to keep fans in their seats, equaled an offseason of frivolous spending and multi-year deals to likes of now-backup power forward Channing Frye, oft-used wingman Josh Childress, one-move extraordinaire (that would be dunking for those of you counting at home) Hakim Warrick and the dearly-departed Hedo Turkoglu (who looked as lost in a purple and orange uniform as Robert Horry did back in the 1996-97 season).
These are not your Colangelo-run Suns anymore that is for certain.