Since Mike D'Antoni took over as their head coach in 2008, the Knicks have been linked to Steve Nash in one way or another. Nash, who ran the point for D’Antoni’s supersonic “seven seconds or less” Phoenix offense, has been coveted by the Knicks front office since the Stephon Marbury era.
While the bright lights of Broadway ultimately lured D’Antoni away from the desert, the Knicks have never been able to fully recreate the speed-ball offense that netted the Sun’s four straight playoff appearances under D’Antoni.
All signs point to Steve Nash.
Nash is one of the rare players in the NBA who can have a field-goal percentage of zero and still be the biggest contributor on the floor. His silky smooth passes have long cut through even the most rigid of defenses as if they were deli meat. As his career 8.5 assists per game will attest, Nash is the league’s best distributor and ranks among the greatest of all time.
Even more impressively, Hair Canada has led the NBA in assists for the past two years despite the Suns' glaring lack of offensive weapons (at the ripe ages of 35 and 36 no less). So is there any question as to why Knicks fans drool at the thought of Nash running the floor alongside the Broadway Bigs?
The Knicks’ failure to land Chris Paul during the shortened offseason not only exposed their glaring weakness at the one guard but showed how much New York is willing to give up in exchange for a top-tier point guard (Amar'e Stoudemire according to ESPN’s Mark Stein).
If the Knicks front office was willing to give up the talent they have in Stoudemire to land Chris Paul they certainly wouldn’t hesitate if they could get a guy as elite as Nash is for a combination of draft picks, prospects and role players.
However, it wouldn’t be New York’s front office that decides whether Nash will be wearing blue and orange by the March 15th trading deadline. This is a decision that's squarely in the hands of Lon Babby and the rest of Phoenix’s executive team.
Though Carmelo Anthony was able to force his way to New York at the trade deadline last year, Nash has made it clear that he will not ask for a trade despite his two-year contract expiring following the season: “It's not my style. Maybe I'm old school, but I feel like that's not my place to give up on my team, give up on my teammates. I signed a contract and made a commitment...I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and the organization to fight,” he told ESPN’s Mark Stein in an interview.
This leaves Nash’s future in Phoenix at the sole discretion of the Sun’s front office. With a record of 4-4 through January 10th the Suns are trapped in no man’s land as they have been for the past few years, neither in legitimate contention or engaged in a full-blown rebuilding process.
Though it’s difficult to judge on a given night, the Suns often look stupendous one game and horrendous the next. Following the departure of franchise player Amar’e Stoudemire they seem closer to rebuilding than contending in the near future.
At 37, Nash is certainly not a player you can rebuild a franchise around, and despite his seemingly ageless play his legs come with an expiration date. If the Suns wanted to make a run in the playoffs with a Steve Nash-centered team it would have to be soon and, looking at their roster, the Suns just don’t have enough pieces around Nash to be poised to do so.
Even if they were able to acquire enough talent to vault them into contention within the near future there’s no telling when serious decline will start in Steve’s game. At his age it could be any day.
With this said Nash brings a lot more than skill to the floor. Quite possibly the most popular player in the Suns’ 40+ years of existence, the loss of Nash would not only cast Phoenix into the league’s lowest echelon but would crush an already disillusioned fan base. Though they run the risk of losing Nash to free agency, the Suns must consider what they are willing to do to preserve this future Hall of Famer's legacy and meaning to the Phonix organization.
In the end the Suns will trade Nash, be it to the Knicks or some other team. After seeing what happened to Cleveland following the departure of Lebron James through free agency, teams with superstars on expiring contracts have become far more conservative than ever before.
Just as Denver and New Orleans gave up franchise players to ensure future success, the Suns will follow suit. Though Steve Nash is no longer in the same class as a Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul, the Suns can still expect to get considerable talent for him with the demand for point guards so high among so many contending teams.
Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, the Knicks’ situation at the one guard is one of the most dismal. With the recent injury to the shoulder of Toney Douglass the Knicks have been left with only two viable options at the one guard for the time being, rookie Iman Shumpert and veteran Mike Bibby.
Though the Knicks signed former All-Star Baron Davis to the veteran’s minimum after he was amnestied by Cleveland, a bulging back means that he’s still weeks away from running the court and leaves his future production uncertain at best.
The lack of continuity between the Broadway Bigs thus far, especially concering Anthony and Stoudemire, has been alarming. While some of this rigidness can be blamed on a shortened training camp prior to the season, a good deal of the problem has stemmed from New York’s lack of a coherent distirbutor.
Aside from the rare backdoor pass, both of the Knicks’ primary scorers, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, have been forced to create their own shots, with almost none of them coming in the paint.
How many times this season have we seen either Anthony or STAT get a pass somewhere in mid-range five or six seconds into a possession before they spend the rest of the shot clock trying to create separation before hoisting up a shot?
Despite the fact that both have been able to knock down a relatively high percentage of their shots and the Knicks are sitting above .500 through their first nine games, it’s not the kind of offense that takes teams deep into the playoffs, let alone the finals .
Though the Knicks will win games this way and Baron Davis should relieve some the Knicks’ congestion on the offensive side of the ball, a dynamic guard like Nash could transform the Knicks from a middle-of-the-pack team into the Beast of the East and a team that can stand toe to toe with the Miami Heat.
As a Knicks fan I can only dream about what it would be like if Melo got a handful of uncontested shots every night and Stoudemire got a chance to effectively run his near un-defendable pick and roll. These are all things Steve Nash brings to the floor every game he plays, regardless of who’s around him. So what’s stopping the Knicks from going out and getting him?
The most difficult aspect of Nash moving to the Knicks would be salary cap space. The Broadway Bigs alone put the Knicks close to over the approximately $58 million salary cap as the trio will make close to $50 million this year, making the salary left on Nash’s contract (right around $9.5 million because of the lockout) almost impossible to fit in.
Even if the Knicks were able to negotiate a deal to bring Nash to New York, it would force them to also move a player like Toney Douglass, Iman Shumpert, Renaldo Balkman or Landry Fields along with the package being sent to Phoenix to free up enough cap room.
While there are situations in which the Knicks could land Steve Nash prior to the end of the season, it seems doubtful at best, making it look like Knicks fans will have to wait until this summer to see Hair Canada land in Madison Square Garden.