HANG TIME CAPITAL BUREAU — While the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks have made strong pushes for free-agent guard Steve Nash, the Los Angeles Lakers have quietly entered the fray for the 38-year-old guard and are making a strong bid to acquire him, according to a league source.
The Lakers, with a payroll already projected in excess of $83 million next season, would only be able to offer Nash an exception starting at $3.09 million for next season. It’s unlikely Nash would take that, so a sign-and-trade deal would be a more realistic possibility.
The Lakers do have a viable starting point guard they could send Phoenix in such a deal, Ramon Sessions, who became an unrestricted free agent after surprisingly opting out of the last year of his contract. Forwards Jordan Hill and Matt Barnes are also free agents.
The Lakers have also been looking to rid themselves of forward Metta World Peace, who has two years and $15 million remaining on his deal. But the Suns aren’t believed to be interested in World Peace.
Nash is mulling offers from the Raptors, who reportedly have a three-year, $36 million deal on the table, and the Knicks, who only have the $3 million exception to offer as well.
A source said Tuesday that Nash is allowing the Knicks time to try and create a sign-and-trade deal that would be palatable for Phoenix — and also get Nash a higher annual salary. But the Raptors put a crimp in New York’s plans Tuesday when they reached a verbal agreement with restricted free-agent guard Landry Fields on an offer sheet worth $20 million for three years.
Fields was one of the players the Knicks had hoped to include in a potential sign and trade with the Suns. But the league’s rules prohibit a team from trading a player who has signed an offer sheet as part of a sign-and-trade deal.
The Mavericks are also looking at Nash, who left Dallas as a free agent in 2004 for Phoenix, after Nets free agent guard Deron Williams opted to remain in Brooklyn on Tuesday. But the Mavericks, according to a league source, have other possibilities if they can’t get Nash, including Clippers free agent Randy Foye, and Aaron Brooks, who played last season in China.
Because Brooks, who had played most recently in Phoenix in the NBA, wasn’t on the Suns’ roster at the end of last season, he can’t be used by the Suns as part of any sign-and-trade deal.