Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/11/12

Phoenix Suns fans were just getting their heads around the idea of seeing Steve Nash in another jersey -- only to discover he would wind up in the jersey of their bitter rival.

Painted into a corner and faced with the prospect of losing Nash with nothing in return, Suns owner Robert Sarver gritted his teeth and traded the two-time MVP and face of the franchise within the division -- and to the hated Los Angeles Lakers. Just when you think Kobe Bryant's path to the sixth championship is road-blocked by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Suns offer the perfect off-ramp.

Here you go Lakers, the Suns said. Take the franchise's best player, use him to fill both of the glaring holes on your roster -- point guard and 3-point shooting. Rout us four times next year while you boat race to another division title. We'll try and rebuild with the draft picks acquired in the deal, first-rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second-rounders in 2013 and 2014.

Nash got a three-year, $28 million contract.

Truth is, the Suns didn't make their mistake with Nash on July 4, they made it last summer, when they didn't trade him when value was higher and choices were more plentiful. They didn't trade him at the deadline, when Nash was leading the league in assists and the Suns' playoff chances were looking pretty dim. As they did with Amar'e Stoudemire, the Suns hung onto their asset until the last minute. They were unable to get anything for Stoudemire in the summer of 2010, and they were forced to deal Nash to the Lakers to avoid the same fate.

Nash was grateful to Sarver for making the deal so he could stay close to Arizona and see his children more often. He also picked up a chance to win an NBA championship and a chance to further his blossoming career as a movie mogul. But it was really about the kids.

It was by far the biggest but only one in a series of deals the Suns pulled during early July. After drafting point guard Kendall Marshall, Phoenix brought back Goran Dragic, the most successful in a line of unsuccessful Nash understudies, with a four-year deal. They added mercurial scorer Michael Beasley, and they signed shooting guard Eric Gordon to a $58 million offer sheet -- though the Hornets said they would match the offer to keep Gordon.

They could be in the market to trade the likes of Marcin Gortat or Jared Dudley -- or both -- along with some or all of the draft picks picked up from the Nash deal. One thing is certain, the rebuilding project the Suns put off for so long is now fully under way.

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