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Steve Nash took pay cut so he and Quentin Richardson could hit the bar

Quentin Richardson #3 and Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns encourage Shawn Marion #31 after Marion was down on a flagrant foul by Shane Battier of the Memphis Grizzlies in game one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2005 NBA Playoffs at America West Arena on April 24, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns won 114-103. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Steve Nash was in his 30s with a bad back when he decided to take a second go-around with the Phoenix Suns.

Prior to the 2004-05 season, he and forward Quentin Richardson agreed to sign with the reloading Suns following a 29-win season. But as Nash and Richardson sat in an office around midnight as the free agency period became official, a salary-cap speedbump delayed their new deals becoming official.

On the latest episode of the Knuckleheads podcast, Richardson recounted how Nash made quite the first impression as his new teammate.

Suns executives David Griffin and Rex Chapman were nervous as they attempted to clear up the hurdles of the salary cap coming in lower than expected, Richardson said. That’s when, after they told the players of the problem, Nash stepped in.

“He was like, ‘Take it off mine,'” Richardson said. “I turned to him and look like, ‘Wait a minute.’ Right then, I’ll never forget that, I remember calling (my agent), and he was like, ‘He did what?'”

“That was indicative of who you were for us. It was no thought process. It was like, ‘That was what we waiting on? Boom, bam, bing! Me and Q trying to go to the bar and celebrate and drink.’ And that was literally what you said.”

Nash, who didn’t consult his agent according to Richardson, downplayed the episode.

“I was just excited to be on the team, I was excited for him to come on the team,” Nash said. “What are we waiting on?”

Nash didn’t foresee Phoenix going on to win 62 games and making it to the Western Conference Finals in his first year back with the team that drafted him. He left a talented Dallas Mavericks team expected to contend, while most pundits picked the Suns to miss the playoffs.

“… I thought we could be really good and I thought that we had a chance to surprise a lot of people,” Nash said. “I’ll never say that … ‘Oh, right away (we’ll be good), me on that team?’ To have like the year we had was crazy.”

Behind a strong bond between the players and a style that opponents struggled to contain, the Suns ran their way to winning 31 of their first 35 games that season.

Throughout the Knuckleheads podcast, Nash and Richardson touched on several other memories about that Suns team and their departures.

— “I think that was Mike’s brilliance,” Nash said of head coach Mike D’Antoni. “I don’t think Mike came in, like, this is how we’re going to play. He saw us playing pickup and was like, hold on, before I start being Mr. Smart Coach, let’s let this evolve.”

— Richardson, a talented and aggressive offensive rebounder, remembers Suns assistant Phil Weber reminding him not to begin cheating toward the rim for boards at the detriment of the team’s floor spacing.

“Every single day. Phil, remember he’d be standing there in the corner: ‘I am your spacing monitor, Mr. Richardson,'” Richardson remembers Weber saying. “Get deep in the corners to create the best spacing. My nature, if the ball starts moving … I’d start edging in. Every single time, Mr. Richardson … he’d yell at me every time about that.”

— Nash and Richardson don’t believe current basketball fans remember how good their teammate Amar’e Stoudemire was in his prime.

“Amare’s a freak,” Nash said. “His feet, like, everybody talks about his jumping ability, but he has great feet to start with. He’s always on balance, like a coiled spring. Great feet, great athlete, explosive, quick, agile, all those things. He had incredible hands.

“I don’t even know how he’s remembered by this generation. But he tore the rim off. He tore people’s heads off on the way.”

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