Explored: Steve Nash for Wolves' No. 2
The Phoenix Suns' general posture has been to rebuff trade inquiries for star guard Steve Nash, but the Suns have had discussions this month with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a deal that would send Nash to Minnesota in a package for the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday's draft, according to sources briefed on the talks.
The talks, though, haven't advanced beyond the exploratory stage. Sources described a "mutual conclusion" by both teams that such a deal ultimately would not work for the Wolves because of Nash's presumed desire to land with an established title contender if he finally does leave the Suns.
Nash Hangs 10
No player has had more games of 10 or more assists than Steve Nash over the past three seasons. Nash has over 200 assists more than the next highest player over that time span.
Most 10-plus assist games, last 3 seasons
Sources say that the player Phoenix covets in the draft is Arizona forward Derrick Williams, although Suns officials publicly have denied reports that they have alternatively offered center Marcin Gortat and the No. 13 overall pick for the No. 2 selection instead of Nash.
Suns president Lon Babby called into a Phoenix radio station Wednesday to say the team has no plans to trade Nash.
"I have said it a zillion times. We are not trading Steve Nash," he told "Doug & Wolf" on Sports 620 KTAR.
In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, he repeated the statement he made earlier in the day to The Arizona Republic, saying "We are not trading Marcin Gortat, period. End of sentence. We are not trading Steve Nash, period, exclamation point."
Nash, who turned 37 in February, has one season left on his contract valued at $11.7 million. The Wolves' fear, sources said, is that trading for Nash under those circumstances means they'd have him for a season at best before he moved on in free agency.
"I only focus on trying to get our team back into contention and making the playoffs," Nash said before hosting a charity soccer match Wednesday in New York City. "I don't pay attention to anything else. But it's nice that they say, you know, 'We want you here.'"
Nash said he'd entertain an extension so he can play at least two more seasons.
"They've told me plenty of times they don't want to move me, so I don't think they need to call me every day," he said. "I'm not up to date on all the rumors. Right now I have a contract with the Suns. I hope this year is better than last and I'm ready to keep playing in Phoenix and continue to build the team and win a championship."
So the Wolves, according to sources, continue to explore other trade options with the No. 2 selection, such as a proposal to Washington that the Wizards have steadfastly declined, in which Minnesota has tried to acquire JaVale McGee and the No. 6 pick for the No. 2 pick.
Numerous teams, most notably New York, Portland and Orlando, have been trying to persuade the Suns to trade Nash for months, but Phoenix has quickly rejected the overwhelming majority of those overtures.
Yet the opportunity to acquire a draft pick high enough to land them a player with local ties such as Williams is a scenario in which the Suns apparently could stomach parting with one of the most popular players in franchise history.
ESPN.com reported in February that the Timberwolves already were targeting Nash, long before they knew they'd even have the No. 2 pick to dangle, as an ideal mentor to young Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who finally arrived in Minnesota this week, two full seasons after he was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft.
But the Wolves, sources say, likewise always have known that the prospect of actually completing a deal for Nash would be complicated and risky. The assumption around the league is that the Suns, once they do decide they're ready to trade him, would work with Nash to send him somewhere he'd like to be, if possible, as a reward for his loyal service in two separate Phoenix stints.
Nash, who's preparing to host his annual charity soccer game Wednesday in New York featuring NBA and international soccer stars, has consistently said he will not request a trade despite the Suns' failure to even make the playoffs last season.
"Maybe I'm old school," Nash told ESPN.com in January, "but I signed a contract to play here and I want to honor it. I feel like I owe it to my teammates and the city and everybody to keep battling until they tell me it's time to go."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Chad Ford is ESPN's NBA Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics