Nash: I won't be back unless Suns upgrade
Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash made the rounds on the national media circuit Thursday and made what might be his most revealing comments yet on his looming free agency.
Appearing on both the Dan Patrick and Jim Rome shows Thursday morning, the eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP said he will consider all his options in free agency and made his positions about a return to the Suns clear.
"I am not going to come back to the Suns if there isn't an improvement, if they're not ambitious, if they’re not looking to upgrade the roster seriously," Nash told Patrick. "I think they are. I think they will have a lot of flexibility in free agency."
Nash has been very honest this season when the team has struggled, saying it lacks the talent to compete with the league's best and has to make up for it in other ways. The Suns will have plenty of cap space this offseason to shop in the free-agent market, so it seems likely that they'll make a run at one or more top players.
Now in his eighth season since he returned to Phoenix, Nash has more than one reason to stay in Arizona. He has been embraced strongly by the organization and its fan base and has often said he is comfortable in Phoenix. He also has school-aged children in the area with his ex-wife.
Even at 38, Nash is still among the NBA's most effective point guards. He leads the league with 11.2 assists per game. It's clear Nash wants to play for a contender, but he did not say that the team he chooses — be it the Suns or another — must be an instant title favorite.
"It's not necessarily my style to chase a championship," Nash said. "But at the same time, if the right situation afforded me the opportunity to get a championship or play in the Finals, I would definitely consider it strongly."
Since the MVP award was first given out for the 1955-56 NBA season, only Nash (a two-time winner) and Bulls guard Derrick Rose (who's only 23 years old) have won the award but failed to reach the NBA Finals in their careers. Despite a common assumption that Nash is highly motivated for at least a shot at a title, he insists that championship aspirations do not consume him.
"I might lose sleep on occasion, but overall I know everything's all right," Nash said on Rome's show. "I know a lot of great players have not won championships, and a lot of mediocre players have. I don't think it's something that has to follow you around.
"It definitely still drives me, and I want a chance to win a championship and play on a contender, but there's a lot of things to consider."
So could Nash end with a superstar-studded team like the Miami Heat or New York Knicks? Perhaps, though the Knicks could be changing course after they fired coach Mike D'Antoni, Nash's coach in Phoenix before current head man Alvin Gentry. Nash didn't sound opposed to playing for the Heat when Patrick brought up the question.
"I'd listen," Nash said of a call from Miami. "I love what they’re doing there. A lot of people don’t like them because they put all that talent together, but they're professional. They play hard; they play together."
Ultimately, it sounds as though Nash wants to play for a team that he believes has a legitimate shot at reaching the Finals as his career winds down. Could that be the Suns? That's to be determined, but the team has indicated it does not want to go into rebuilding mode.
There had been speculation that the Suns would deal Nash at the trade deadline this year, but the team maintained that it would not trade Nash unless he asked to be moved. That isn't Nash's style, either.
"I really didn't want to leave at the deadline," Nash said. "I feel like I owed it to my teammates, the Suns and the fans, and I could possibly be back, for sure."
How the Suns finish out the season could have an impact on Nash's return to Phoenix, but more important will be what they do after the season.
"I think it's going to be a tough decision, but I wouldn't want to say that anything's not in play right now," Nash said. "But if I am going to come back to Phoenix, I definitely want to see an ambitious move to become a contender again."