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Updated Jan 12, 2012 - 8:37 pm

Wrong move for right reasons? The Suns and Steve Nash

Loyalty.

Defined as “the state or quality of being
loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations,” the
topic has come up over the last few days on
ArizonaSports.com on a variety of stories.

The most recent case involves the Phoenix Suns and their
point guard, leader and face of the franchise Steve Nash.

In an interview with ESPN.com’s
Marc Stein
, Nash talked about how he is not planning
on asking for a trade.

“I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay
committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and
the organization to fight,” he said.

A few days later, on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and
Wolf,
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon
Babby reiterated the organization’s position on Nash,
which can be summed up like this:

Steve Nash will be a Phoenix Sun for as long as he wants
to be a Phoenix Sun.

The idea is as novel as it may be foolish, given that the
team could be wasting Nash’s final years as a
quality player on a team that, quite frankly, will not win
an NBA championship. The 37-year-old has shaken off a slow
start to push is current averages to 12.1 points and 9.6
assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the
floor.

In other words, Steve Nash can still ball, meaning he
would have to have some value to some other
team that actually has championship aspirations. The Suns
have no doubt taken calls about the guy – and likely Grant
Hill, too – but have rebuffed the overtures each time.

While that could change if the Suns fall out of the
playoff race in the near future or a team sends a crazy
offer Phoenix’s way (hello, Oklahoma City, interested in
parting with Russell Westbrook?), the team has shown no
inclination to trade away its veteran leaders, choosing to
hang onto them for at least one more season, even at the
risk of losing each as free agents this coming summer.

Babby’s reasoning, he said, has as much to do with where
the players help off the court as they do on it.

“I look and see what Steve and to the same extent Grant do
for Markieff Morris every day, teaching him how to be a
professional and how to be a pro,” he said.

Babby continued to say you can’t have a team full of only
young players with no veteran leaders, and he’s right. Do
that and you are as likely to be the Sacramento Kings as
you are the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, a team is
probably more likely to wallow away in the lottery for a
bit unless it lands a superstar like Kevin Durant or
Derrick Rose in the draft.

But that’s not the point, at least, not really. The truth
is the Suns are showing an uncanny sense of loyalty to a
player who has won a pair of MVP awards, guided the team
to three Western Conference Finals appearances and really
been a great ambassador for the team. They feel Nash has
earned the right to play wherever he wants, and if Phoenix
is that place then, by golly, they are happy to have him.

Is it the right course of action? Well, it didn’t exactly
work for the early-90s Celtics, who held onto Larry Bird
and Kevin McHale for too long, only to suffer through
years of pretty awful basketball after they left, and we
won’t know how the front office’s loyalty is viewed around
the league until the Summer of 2012, when free agents will
have a chance to take Robert Sarver’s money and play for
the Suns.

But for now, all we know is what we already knew: Steve
Nash is not your average NBA player, so he’s not going to
abandon the team, and the Suns have no interest in
forsaking their star, even if it could potentially help
them with the rebuilding process.

Loyalty is not a word used often in in the context of
sports or, sadly, everyday life. However, we’re seeing it
play out right in front of us as the Suns continue their
decline from contender to also-ran. So the question
becomes: Is the wrong move palatable so long as it’s being
made for the right reasons?

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