The question to Steve Nash was direct. The answer came back the same way.
Do the Suns miss James Jones, who was given away to the Portland Trail Blazers last June in one of many recent cash-inspired moves designed to keep the core of a 60-win team intact?
"No, not really."
Nash wasn't being mean. Just logical. Moving Jones allowed the Suns to sign seven-time All-Star Grant Hill at about half the price. And after a second season of spotty outside shooting (37.8 percent from 3-point range) and ineffective postseasons, Phoenix was looking for an upgrade in speed and production.
"We probably miss him stretching the floor (as a 3-point threat), but he never shot a great percentage for us," Nash said. "Grant more than makes up for it at both ends."
But then again, Nash and the Suns never saw this year's version of Jones.
This Jones has hit a career-high 49.2 percent from 3-point range (61-for-124), ranking second to only Toronto's Jason Kopono (.505) in that category. He has given a young Blazers team some offense and taught them a few tricks of the trade (taking charges and embellishing fouls) that he learned at the knee of Reggie Miller in Indiana.
"It's been a lot of fun to be part of getting this team back on its feet and becoming popular in the city again," Jones said. "I liked Phoenix and the team and I wasn't looking to leave, but this has turned out to be a good situation for me. I have no complaints.
"With the Suns, I was the fourth or fifth shooting option on the floor. That made sense because Raja (Bell) and L.B. (Leandro Barbosa) and Steve were hitting the shots. Here, sometimes I'm the first option when I come in. They look to get me going."
Part of a Suns team that reeled off 15- and 17-game winning streaks last year, Jones was in the middle of Portland's stunning 13-game streak in December that had carried the Greg Oden-less Blazers into playoff contention through midseason. They have faded since, and Jones missing 12 games with a left knee injury hasn't helped, since he has turned out to be a lucky charm of sorts.
With Jones in the lineup, Portland is 23-12. When he plays at least 24 minutes, the Blazers are 17-4. He returned from injury Friday night against the Lakers, hit three of four shots including both 3's in 18 minutes and the Blazers stopped what has become a runaway train in L.A.
The offseason move didn't catch Jones by surprise. He majored in finance at the University of Miami, and he knew the numbers didn't add up for him or Kurt Thomas if the Suns want to avoid a big luxury tax hit.
"That team had two years to get (to the NBA Finals) and it didn't happen, and that usually means change," Jones said. "They wanted to beef up certain areas, and they felt they had enough shooters and defenders. It made sense. I understood."
But as it turns out, the Suns didn't have enough shooters. Hill isn't a 3-point guy and with Shawn Marion gone, they were short on floor spacers. Ironically, Gordan Giricek who the Suns hope can pick up some of the slack could be meeting his new Phoenix teammates today as Jones catches up with his old friends for the first time since the deal.
"They're having a rough time right now, but Phoenix is a championship-caliber team led by winners," Jones said. "You put (Shaquille O'Neal) in there and that will take time, but they are a team of intelligent players. They will mesh."
Kobe Bryant scored 52 points on Sunday, but he was barely more than halfway toward the best scoring night on March 2. That day also marked the 46th anniversary (1962) of Wilt Chamberlain's incredible 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa.
Here's an interesting sky-is-falling scenario: If the Suns wind up missing the playoffs and Atlanta makes it in the Eastern Conference, the Suns will have Atlanta's non-lottery pick this summer while their own lottery pick will belong to Seattle (for taking Thomas) and isn't lottery protected. Ouch.