Scott Bordow: Despite Steve Nash's age and defensive shortcomings, a two-year contract extension makes a lot of sense for Suns.
My first reaction when I heard the Suns and Steve Nash are closing in on a two-year, $22 million contract extension?
Nash is 35 years old. The Suns won’t contend for an NBA title the next couple of years. Why use valuable salary cap space on an aging point guard who can’t play a lick of defense?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the decision by owner Robert Sarver and general manager Steve Kerr to extend Nash makes perfect sense.
1) Ticket sales.
For years now, the Suns have been able to count on sellout crowds and unceasing attention from the local media. But that’s no longer the case. Their reservoir of goodwill is empty and the Cardinals are now the hottest ticket in town, immune to the struggling economy.
The Suns, on the other hand, have to give fans a reason to venture to US Airways Center.
A team led by Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill won’t win a championship, but it will be fun to watch and could slip into the Western Conference playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed.
Will that be enough to ensure sellouts every night? Probably not. But can you imagine how the Suns would draw if their team – and their marketing – was built around Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez?
The Suns are skewing younger. But they need some veterans around to show the young kids how to play, practice and handle themselves, both on and off the court. Who better than Nash and Hill, two of the classiest players in the league?
Without them – and with Stoudemire running the locker room - anarchy could reign.
3. He can still play.
Nash no longer is the NBA’s best point guard, but he still averaged 15.7 points and 9.7 assists per game last season. If Dragic progresses and the Suns can actually limit Nash minutes to around 30 per game – something they’ve talked about for years – there’s no reason he can’t be as effective in his late 30s as John Stockton was for Utah.
Is Nash a defensive liability? No question. But as long as he’s surrounded by mobile post defenders – as opposed to Shaquille O’Neal – the Suns can get by.
Having Nash eat up $11 million in cap space would seem counterproductive if the Suns want to sign an elite free agent – LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, etc., etc., - after the 2009-2010 season.
But the salary cap won’t be an issue if Stoudemire’s $17.6 million salary comes off the books. The Suns will have room to pursue a max contract player.
Consider this, too: Why would a Bosh or Wade even entertain the idea of coming to Phoenix if the roster is devoid of talent and there’s no chance to win? Retaining Nash not only gives the Suns a competitive team, but a chip with which to recruit. Players love to play with Nash because he’s unselfish and he makes them look good.
I understand why some fans want Phoenix to completely start over. And that might make some sense if the Suns were sure to sign one of the marquee free agents next summer and have a top-five draft pick.
Unfortunately, the Suns’ pick belongs to Oklahoma City, and if the free agents decide to go elsewhere or stay with their current teams, then what?
No, keeping Nash around for three more seasons – even at his age – is the right thing to do.
The Suns won’t win a title, but at least they won’t bore us to death.