HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Did someone mention fireworks?
The Los Angeles Lakers kicked things off before dark by pulling off an agreement on a reported sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Suns that will pair up Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and two-time MVP Steve Nash in a backcourt of two of the league’s most sensational players.
The deal, believed to be for three years and nearly 27 million, includes two future first-round picks, two secon- rounds picks and some $3 million in cash going from the Lakers to the Suns. Nash, 38, was also being pursued by the Knicks, Raptors, Mavericks and others.
Bryant was reportedly the lead recruiter on Nash and sold his former rival on a championship core (Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol) already in place and the need for an elite point guard to push the Lakers over the top. The proximity to his three children was also believed to be a major factor in Nash choosing to stay in the Western Conference.
The fact that all of this came together in the past 72 hours, and between teams that have been fierce rivals during Bryant’s time with the Lakers and Nash’s tenure with the Suns, makes it even more stunning. But the Lakers offed Nash the one thing no one else could, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, and that’s a chance to remain near his three children in Phoenix:
They used the trade exception they received from last year’s Lamar Odom deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
“He’s ecstatic,” said Billy Duffy, Nash’s agent. “He gets to be close to his children.”
The Suns will get the Lakers’ 2013 and ’15 first-round draft picks and their 2014 and ’15 second-round selections. The Lakers also paid the Suns $3 million to facilitate the trade.
Phoenix radio station KTAR 620 first broke the news of the Suns’ sign-and-trade agreement with the Lakers.
The New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks had all tried to sign Nash, but he turned down more money – three years and nearly $36 million from the Raptors – for an opportunity to chase a title with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and to be closer to his children. Nash is divorced with two daughters and a son.
“His intention, as related to the Suns, was if he left that they would get value, that he would have the ability as his career was winding down to come to a competitive situation,” Duffy said. “But his most important aspect was his ability to be close to his children. He’s an hour from his children. I’ve never seen him happier because of that fact alone.”
Duffy said Nash briefly considered retiring at the end of last season.
“Everything in his mind was predicated on his children,” Duffy said. “It put me in an interesting situation because I knew that dynamic. It wasn’t about the most money. He turned down a lot of money and aspects of other deals for the well being of his family.”
Even more surprising is the complete about-face Nash has done since a radio interview with ESPN NewYork 98.7 last month. Back then, he panned the idea of joining the conglomerate and mentioned the Lakers as a specific example at this stage of his career (though he did give himself a little wiggle room at the end):
“The truth is I’m a bit old school,” Nash said in the June 25 interview. “For me, it would be hard to put on a Lakers jersey. That’s just the way it is. You play against them so many times in the playoffs, and I just use them as an example, and I have the utmost respect for them and their organization.
“I kind of have that tendency (to try to beat the best teams), so it is strange, but as a free agent you’re free to go where you want, so I’d have to consider everything regardless of the past or the future.”
With Nash in the fold, rumors have started that he’ll try to persuade his good friend and ex-Suns teammate Grant Hill to join the Lakers, a move (if it happens) that would give them one of the deepest and most experienced teams in the league.
After looking for a few days like the major action in free agency would go on in the Eastern Conference, with Deron Williams agreeing to a deal with the Brooklyn Nets and the Nets and Hawks agreeing on a blockbuster deal that sends All-Star guard Joe Johnson to Brooklyn, things have taken a decidedly Hollywood turn this evening.
Los Angeles and the Staples Center will be home to two of the league’s premier point guards, Nash with the Lakers and Chris Paul with the Clippers, as well as two of the most star-studded rosters in the game.