Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/2/12
When the chips are down and he's backed into a corner by representatives of the vicious Phoenix media, Steve Nash often unholsters the C-word. On Sunday night, the C-word was not "cohesion." He doesn't need that particular C-word these days because Nash and the Phoenix Suns have developed on-court chemistry (another pertinent C-word with abundant use) in their march toward playoff contention. That cohesion provided a victory over the woeful-but-game New Orleans Hornets in the Suns' first game since the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player stirred things up during a string of national radio interviews. That spin around the talk-show circuit inspired considerable g-nash-ing of teeth by local reporters and fans who really began wondering if the franchise face would be signing with another team. In recent weeks, the temperature of Nash's future has been forecast as a warm and fuzzy two-year deal to remain with the Suns. That would claim roughly one-third of the team's anticipated salary-cap room, with the Suns looking for a go-to guy with what's left. But thanks to a hypothetical premise posed by Dan Patrick in a show simulcast on FOX Sports Arizona, loyal followers have been worried that Nash might become the point guard for the Miami Heat during this summer's free-agent derby. In response (retaliation?), Steve has rolled out the C-word "context" to explain what occurred over the national airways. After handing out 14 dimes to help the Suns dispatch the Hornets, Nash insisted that his admitted willingness to at least listen to a Heat hiring inquiry (couched by Patrick as an imagined diplomatic contact from LeBron James) has not been embraced in a spirit even close to what he intended. Nash said he'd listen. He issued admiration for what the Heat have cookin' in Miami after a declaration that he won't re-sign with the Suns if the team fails to put better teammates around him. "I'm not going to come back to the Suns if there isn't an improvement, if they're not ambitious and they're not looking to upgrade the roster seriously." Nash said on Patrick's show. "And I think they are. They'll have a lot of flexibility in free agency. They also have been standing pat in many ways so they could do some things this summer. I think they'll become a definite possibility for me. I do want to win. I do want to consider all my options." See, by using the phrase "put better teammates around him," this story trotted out some context that suggested Nash was putting down his current teammates. Although he essentially did a bit of that in the "upgrade the roster seriously" portion of his comments, he didn't come out and directly criticize any of this season's Suns. After Friday's practice, Nash was met by inquiring minds of the local media and said his requirement for an improved team is nothing new and pretty obvious. Who would promise to come back -- under any circumstances -- if the team wasn't committed to getting better, right? He's been steering free-agency-related questions in that direction for a while now. But the difference last week was the lack of deflection when the question became specific to a certain team. That doesn't mean he's leaning toward Miami, where Heat salary-cap limitations -- all they can offer is a mid-level exception -- and his potential presence as a third dominant ballhandler may not jibe. Miami would seem better served using the exception to hire a big, rebound-gulping galoot. Anyway, instead of stating the willingness to listen to any interested parties when a more appropriate time comes, Nash said a couple of flattering things about the Heat. Instead of reminding Patrick that he's busy thinking about what is needed to help the Suns continue their playoff surge into April, he went into some detail. That hardly suggests he's through with Phoenix, but it also wasn't an accident. Knowing the Dove Men's Care promotional tour would put him in the crosshairs of questions aimed at assessing his future, it's very doubtful Nash was unprepared to handle them. Locally, those seemingly measured responses have been hailed as a warning shot across the bow of Suns management. With team representatives insisting that the notion of trading Nash and building for the future only would occur if Nash requested such a move, some followers see last week's stance as Steve's checkmate. But we really won't be able to gauge a definitive lay of the Nash land until July. Until then, we'll have to wonder if Nash really did think (and was disturbed) that the Suns put forth little effort to sign former glory-days forward Boris Diaw after he escaped from the Charlotte Bobcats. Diaw went to San Antonio and is playing with French national team buddy Tony Parker. We also will have to wait for July to find out if the Suns can dredge up enough talent to keep Nash, who has singled out the need for a go-to scorer. Or if they really, truly want to keep Nash. Regardless of the full scope of the reasoning, they certainly seem to. So, if they're committed to keeping the sun, moon, stars and turnstile spinner of the franchise, do the Suns abandon their stated premise to not overpay some restricted free agent in this summer's market to keep Nash in town? There's not exactly a surplus of go-to scorers available. Or with pre-Nash-decision cap room (possibly as much as 31 million) to take back salary without sending salary out, do the Suns offer a first-round draft pick or two for a player (or players) under contract if they're unable to make reasonable progress in free agency? We'll be waiting to see if president Lon Babby's unfolding plan to escort the Suns back to elite status is fast-tracked enough to suit Nash. Nash didn't put the team in what many league experts consider one of the NBA's toughest long-term predicaments. But his whirlwind radio journey could be considered an assist the Suns didn't need.
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