The Valley of the Sun’s status as a premiere place for people from cold climates to live part time helped the Suns big time on Thursday.
The Suns managed to snag point guard Steve Nash, one of the top NBA players available this summer, from the free agent market in part because his parents, Canadians John and Jean, live in the Valley about half the year.
"I’m excited," Jean Nash said moments after her son phoned her with the news.
"We’ll be in the same town. It will be wonderful."
Suns officials met in Dallas with Nash Thursday to close the deal. The contingent included Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, incoming owner Robert Sarver and his assistant, Steve Kerr, Amare Stoudemire, scout Rex Chapman, club president Bryan Colangelo and his assistant, David Griffin, and coach Mike D’Antoni.
For the Suns, Nash will give the club an experienced floor leader, an area where the Suns were woefully short last season. Combined with off-guard Joe Johnson and backed up by the rising Leandro Barbosa and Casey Jacobsen, the Suns should have one of the NBA’s most potent backcourts.
The Suns agreed to a deal with Nash for an estimated $65 million over five years with a partial guarantee for a sixth year. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday he declined to match the Suns’ offer.
Nash’s father, John, had said earlier this week that he thought Steve’s loyalty was with the Mavericks, as long as Dallas officials really wanted to keep him. At the same time, he said his family had a high regard for Suns officials and that, "I’m sure if he had a Number 2 choice, it definitely would be Phoenix."
By losing one of their top players, the Mavericks could become a less attractive place for superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who has said he wants to leave the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Suns made their bid for Nash after it became apparent that Kobe Bryant appeared likely to stay in Los Angeles, either with the Lakers or shifting to the Clippers. The Suns were believed to have made a maximum offer for Bryant of about $100 million over six years, his legal difficulties notwithstanding.
Nash’s deal would start at around $11 million, perhaps leaving the Suns — who started with about $16.3 million in salary cap space — enough money to re-sign forward Antonio McDyess or go after a second-level free agent, such as forward/center Mehmet Okur.
Okur’s agent, Marc Fleisher, confirmed Thursday that the Suns and his client have mutual interest.
Another agent, Mark Bartlestein, confirmed that the Suns have expressed interest in four of his clients: forwards Mark Blount, Brian Cardinal and Eric Williams and guard Derek Fisher.
Suns officials did not immediately respond to questions about Nash’s signing.
The Bryant gambit appears to have faded, unless Bryant ultimately determines he wants to sign with the Suns and forces the Lakers into a sign-and-trade deal (with the threat of jumping to another team, so the Lakers would get no compensation).
As for Nash, he was drafted by the Suns in 1996 in the first round out of Santa Clara. He immediately showed signs of becoming an impact player.
But when the Suns acquired Jason Kidd in a big trade in December of that year, and when Kevin Johnson delayed his retirement, Nash didn’t have a place in the Suns’ point guard rotation.
So the club traded him for the draft pick that became Shawn Marion. Nash, meanwhile, blossomed into an All-Star-caliber player in Dallas, where he directed one of the game’s most potent and exciting offenses.
But the club never made it to the NBA Finals in part because of a mediocre defense.
During his time with the Suns, his parents started making trips from their home in Victoria, British Columbia — Nash is considered the greatest player to come out of Canada — to the Valley to watch him play.
They moved here part time in 1999.