11:33 am Jul. 2, 2012
Without any intervention from the Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash's longtime employer, the meeting on Sunday between the New York Knicks and Steve Nash wouldn't seem to make much sense.
Nash is an unrestricted free agent. He's the most sought-after point guard on the market. The Toronto Raptors reportedly offered him a three-year, $36 million contract. The most the Knicks can offer him without compromising their ability to add players in-season next year is $3.09 million. And Nash has made it clear that money will be a factor in where he plays.
While Nash makes the Knicks better, he also plays the same position as Jeremy Lin, who is almost certain to be retained. Using that one salary slot on another point guard, while holes remain for the Knicks at shooting guard, backups up front, and additional shooters for the second unit wouldn't make much sense, either.
This is where the Phoenix Suns come in.
The N.B.A. allows for something called a sign-and-trade. (The Knicks executed this with David Lee when he departed for the Golden State Warriors in the Summer of Amar'e, 2010.) Teams can make trades in the N.B.A. as long as the salaries match up.
Reportedly, the Suns have interest in adding Landry Fields of the Knicks, and are therefore willing to consider a deal that would have them sign Nash then trade him for a package headlined by Fields.
Since the Knicks have the right to sign Fields for an annual salary of upwards of $5 million, packaging him with Toney Douglas, Jerome Jordan and Dan Gadzuric, the equivalent salary they could take on in Nash would come closer to $10 million. That still isn't quite at the level of the reported Toronto offer; but it is awfully close, with the Knicks offering a far better basketball situation than the Raptors do.
As for the Knicks, it solves the one salary slot problem. They'd retain that $3 million salary exception to be used in other areas. They'd have the best point guard situation possible, with the still-elite Nash backed up by the extremely talented Lin. And they can fill the remainder of their roster through international players, or undrafted free agents. But the roles those lottery ticket players would fill would be far less vital.
It remains to be seen just how serious Phoenix is about such a deal, as well as whether Nash will push for it. It isn't obvious that Phoenix would automatically want something rather than nothing for Nash; in the salary-cap world of the N.B.A., something can be far less valuable, by taking up space and salary, than nothing.
But for the first time, a pathway to bringing Steve Nash, the Hall of Fame-caliber point guard who helped Amar'e Stoudemire to his finest seasons, is distinctly available to the New York Knicks. An offseason with plenty of drama already just got much more interesting.