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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Suns' dream: Re-sign Nash, not trade him

By Marc Stein

How many times have you heard that the Suns will definitely not deal Steve Nash before the March 15 trade deadline?

Better question: Why have they taken that stance?

Answer: Because Suns owner Robert Sarver, according to sources close to the situation, continues to hold out hope that he can convince Nash to re-sign this summer for at least two seasons.

It remains to be seen how willing Nash is to stay after two seasons of steady decline on Sarver's watch since the Suns' Cinderella trip to the 2010 Western Conference finals. The New York Knicks' interest in pursuing Nash as a free agent in the summer is well-documented ... and sources with knowledge of the Dallas Mavericks' thinking say that the defending champs will definitely try to reunite Nash and Dirk Nowitzki in free agency in July if top targets Dwight Howard and Deron Williams elude them. The Toronto Raptors' interest in bringing Captain Canada back home is also well-established.

Sarver, though, is apparently determined to try to convince Nash to retire in the desert. The thinking there, sources say, is that the Suns believe they'd have a better core going forward with a re-upped Nash, center Marcin Gortat, cap space and a top pick in the well-regarded 2012 draft than with the sort of assets they could bring back now in a deadline deal for a 38-year-old point guard who, even as he continues to play at an All-Star level, is just a few months away from free agency.

The risk there, of course, is that keeping Nash beyond the trade deadline exposes the Suns to the same risks Orlando faces if it hangs onto Howard, creating the very real possibility that Nash could leave Phoenix without compensation. In that scenario, though, it's believed that Sarver would prefer to announce to the world afterward that the Suns tried everything they could to keep Nash but ultimately couldn't stop him from signing elsewhere -- and then start to try to rebuild with the resultant cap space -- as opposed to settling for a so-so trade in the next two weeks.

There are a couple voices out there on the NBA grapevine cautioning that the Suns are listening to Nash pitches more than they're letting on, but the overwhelming majority of insiders surveyed by ESPN.com in recent days continue to insist that Nash is going nowhere.

That's despite the fact that the Blazers, sources say, are still trying hard to pry Nash away from the Suns. RealGM.com, meanwhile, reported Sunday that the Magic likewise want to try to acquire Nash before the deadline as a means of appeasing Howard.

"Portland," says one source close to the situation, "has been interested in Nash for a while."

Said another: "Because of his age and because he can leave in the summer, offers for Nash haven't been as star-laden as you'd think."

Yet even if the Blazers were willing to include the widely coveted Nicolas Batum in a package for Nash -- which is a matter of debate depending on who's doing the gossiping -- sources say Phoenix continues to put out the message that it won't deal Nash unless Nash asks to be traded. Which is something Nash has consistently said he won't do.

Which is why most teams, when polled these days, leave you with the impression that they expect neither Howard nor Nash to be moved before the deadline.