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FREE TO BE STEVE

March 19, 2012
March 19, 2012

Table of Contents
March 19, 2012

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
  • As it starts its 17th season, MLS has become a hotbed for talented players from Latin America—especially Colombia, which has a long history with the U.S. game

  • Everyone wants to see the Suns move their point guard—except for Steve Nash, who's happy to keep things as they are

  • These five players were once can't-miss kids. They're still kids and (for the most part) still have a chance to bust out like the Royals' Alex Gordon did in 2011

NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
PRO FOOTBALL
PRO HOCKEY
  • St. Louis has found its happy groove under coach Ken Hitchcock, who has taken his new club from unheralded to seemingly unbeatable

BASEBALL
ANTOINE WALKER
POINT AFTER
Departments

FREE TO BE STEVE

Everyone wants to see the Suns move their point guard—except for Steve Nash, who's happy to keep things as they are

The campaign is strong, its supporters multiplying. FREE STEVE NASH has appeared on T-shirts, bumper stickers, even a Facebook page, as if Nash were a wrongfully imprisoned inmate and not an eight-time All-Star. "Everyone else is more worried about [my future] than I am," says the Suns' point guard. "There is so much talk of it, it's almost become noise now."

This is an article from the March 19, 2012 issue

Some are surprised that at 38, Nash has a future. (Hello, Mark Cuban!) But Nash is averaging 13.6 points on 54.4% shooting and a league-leading 11.0 assists at week's end. Against the Thunder on March 7, Nash had 13 dimes—in the first half. "What he is doing is mind-boggling," says Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "He gets credit for his court vision, but his quickness and his first step are outstanding. He can do everything at full speed." Nash credits a strict diet, a top physiotherapist (Rick Celebrini, who has been instrumental in managing Nash's congenital back condition that requires him to lie down when he's out of the game) and a nonstop off-season workout routine for his graceful aging.

While Nash has been steady, Phoenix has faltered. The Suns missed last year's playoffs and were 19--21 through Sunday, 11th place in the West. And that has given birth to the movement among Phoenix fans to "free" him for a chance at a title while allowing the team to concentrate on rebuilding. Suns sources say they would explore trading Nash—if he asked them to—and league sources say they would net at least a first-round pick. Nash, however, isn't asking. "If I get the chance to compete for a championship, that would be great," says Nash. "If I don't, there is still a lot of reward to be had. It's an interesting dichotomy. In one respect I want to win a championship, but not at all costs. I'm not just going to chase one. I feel a sense of loyalty to my teammates. Maybe there is a time you part ways, maybe there is not."

Indeed, while Nash would upgrade several contenders—the Hawks, Mavericks and Trail Blazers top the list—his future could lie in Phoenix. Nash runs an offensive system that would fall apart if he left. The Suns can outbid any team in free agency this summer, and Nash says his relationship with Phoenix's heralded training staff and his quality of life will be significant factors in his decision. Yes, when Nash finally is free to leave, there's a very good chance that his choice will be to stay put.

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PHOTOD. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (NASH)BETTER WITH AGE The 38-year-old Nash is on pace to top the NBA in assists for the seventh time; no other leader has been over 34.PHOTODANNY BOLLINGER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGESPHOTOGREG NELSONPHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGHPHOTOGREG NELSONPHOTOMITCHELL LAYTON/GETTY IMAGESPHOTOROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGESPHOTOGREG NELSONPHOTOELSA/GETTY IMAGESPHOTOBRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES