Despite Nash’s departure, Suns future remains bright

Steve Nash is officially a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The words no Phoenix Suns fan ever wanted to hear have become a reality. While Nash’s departure from the team was all but a done deal, to see him jump ship to the conference rival, Lakers, was a blow most fans weren’t ready to deal with.

However, in the wake of Nash leaving, Suns fans can now focus on something positive: The team is finally rebuilding.

After the Suns became the Cinderella story of 2010 by reaching the Western Conference Finals in a year most national media pundits didn’t even expect them to make the playoffs, the future of the franchise became a bit muddled.

Despite the immense team chemistry, Amare Stoudemire decided to leave the team after the New York Knicks outbid the Suns. It was then that, seemingly, the whole world knew what the Suns needed to do, but instead of saying goodbye to Nash, they resigned him to a two-year deal.

The next year, the Suns failed to make the playoffs. Again, instead of trying to test the market for Nash, the front office remained dedicated to their future Hall of Fame point guard and stood by their man. A nice sentiment, sure, but the Suns again failed to make the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.

The writing had been on the wall for months. It was highly unlikely Steve Nash would stick around on a team he — and everyone else — knew wouldn’t be competing for a championship in the next few years. So, he did what most aging superstars do and signed with a team that has a good chance at hoisting the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.

While the initial pain of Nash becoming a Laker was almost too much for some Suns faithful, the team’s front office has done a stellar job this offseason.

For once, the Phoenix Suns appeared close to nabbing the league’s most coveted free agent. After meeting with the Suns organization, Hornets guard Eric Gordon fired off the words, “My heart is in Phoenix.”

While the Hornets have since matched the Suns’ offer and it appears unlikely Gordon will don the purple and orange in the near future, it feels great to be picked by the player the rest of the league wanted most. I honestly can’t remember the last time someone not named Steve Nash said those words.

On top of that, Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and company signed former Suns point guard Goran Dragic to a very well constructed four-year deal. While it remains to be seen if Dragic can fill the shoes Nash left, the Slovenian appears more than willing to give it his all for the team who drafted him just four years ago.

The Suns also signed former second overall pick Michael Beasley to a contract, giving the team another unique offensive weapon to bring off the bench and adding to the team’s increasingly-youthful core.

In addition to the contracts they’ve given out, the Suns met with free agent guard and former Pac-10 standout O.J. Mayo. After a promising first two years in the league, Mayo was relegated to bench duty in Memphis in favor of the defensive-minded Tony Allen. While his production took a hit, he’s still a hugely-talented athlete, and if the Suns can acquire Mayo for a reasonable price, that may just be the deal of the summer.

While the pain of watching Nash play in gold may never go away, the once-bleak future of the Phoenix Suns has become bright.

 

Reach the columnist at tpaxton@asu.edu