A source with inside knowledge of the Steve Nash free-agency pursuit has confirmed reports of continuing sign-and-trade dialogue between the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.
The key personnel chip that would come to Arizona if such a deal occurred is Knicks guard Iman Shumpert.
“There’s still a great reluctance to give him up,” the source said in reference to the 6-foot-5 combo guard who earned first-team honors on the NBA’s All-Rookie squad. “But there’s a greater reluctance to pass up an opportunity to get a guy like Nash.”
The sign-and-trade option involving the Suns and Knicks took a brief hit Tuesday when presumed Phoenix target Landry Fields agreed to a three-year, $20 million offer from the Nash-seeking Toronto Raptors. The offer sheet, which can’t be signed until July 11, could be matched by the Knicks, who would, by rule, be unable to trade Fields to another team.
When contacted Tuesday, the same source posited that the Knicks’ basketball-operations staff would be against giving up Shumpert, a defensive standout whose season was ended by a knee injury sustained during the first-round of the playoffs.
But even though Shumpert will miss most — if not all — of the coming season while rehabilitating the knee, the Suns’ quest for young and viable talent makes getting something of value for the departing Nash an acceptable situation. With Shumpert high on its priority list going into the 2011 draft, Phoenix would be taking a roundabout way of landing a desired prospect scheduled to make only $6 million total the next three seasons.
To enable the Knicks to present Nash with a reported $27 million contract that covers three seasons, the Suns — who would have only $1.6 in salary for next season attached to Shumpert — would have to take back some spare (and possibly waive-worthy) contracts from New York. Expected to be included is guard Toney Douglas, who is owed slightly less than $2.1 million for next season.
The source was unable to confirm the terms of what New York might offer Nash.