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."
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.
March 19, 2012