PHOENIX -- The Suns might lack some measure of control when it comes to retaining their superstar point guard this offseason, but they've got at least some control elsewhere.
With center Robin Lopez and point guard Aaron Brooks restricted free agents, the Suns have the primary rights to both players, and indications are that they value both.
Team president of basketball operations Lon Babby addressed both players' situations Wednesday in a meeting with local media. Brooks' situation of late was particularly tricky, as he signed to play in China just a week before the lockout ended. His contract did not allow him to leave for the NBA until his team's season ended.
Brooks' value to the Suns could depend on whether Steve Nash stays or goes. If Nash departs, the Suns would be left with only backup Sebastian Telfair, and they might consider Brooks a potential offensive weapon. He played 25 games for the Suns in the 2010-2011 season, averaging 9.6 and 4.2 assists points per game in a backup role before the lockout forced him to go international.
"It's tricky, we got a little bit of bad luck," Babby said. "He had no way of knowing the lockout was going to end the next week. So we lost the ability to have him on our team last year."
Brooks came to the Suns in the trade of Goran Dragic, who has blossomed since going to the Rockets. Brooks, 27, played in the Chinese Basketball Association last season, averaging 21.1 points for the Guandong Southern Tigers as they went all the way to the finals before losing.
Babby seemed interested in retaining Brooks' rights, at least in the short term.
"He's an important asset," Babby said. "He's going to be restricted -- we'll qualify him and preserve our rights. We'll just have to see how it all plays out."
The Suns in January opted not to offer Lopez an extension before the deadline for players drafted in 2008, as the 24-year-old center indicated to the team he'd rather test the free agent market. Being restricted, however, the Suns maintain the right to keep him by matching any offer made to him.
"The message I would send out is it's quite likely, if not certain, we're going to match (any offer)," Babby said. "He's an important asset to us. I thought he gave us a lot down the stretch this year. We need rim protection, and he gives us that. We dont have that really from anybody else."
Should Lopez receive an exorbitant offer from another team, the Suns might decide it's too much too match. But as of now, they appear set on keeping the young big man.
Lopez struggled in 2010-11 while working back from multiple injuries in a productive sophomore season.
"Last year, he took on a lot of water," Babby said. "We took the position that we needed to help him this year. I think, in retrospect, he took a little longer to recover from those medical issues, physical issues he had last year. But the second half this year, particularly after the All-Star Break, he was excellent."
Lopez finished the season with 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, though he tallied 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game after the break.
"He's got to get more consistent," Babby said. "But I thought he made a lot of progress this year and vindicated our decision to stick with him."