What’s the upside of trading Steve Nash?

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Steve Nash has made it pretty clear: He’s not asking out of Phoenix. Not going to happen. As he says it, he “signed up for this.” And Lon Babby, Suns GM, certainly doesn’t sound like a guy itching to pull the trigger on any move for Nash, calling him the “sun, the moon, and the stars” of the franchise. Which he is. You’ll never get back equal value for Nash. It’s impossible, to try and get back what a two-time MVP and face of your franchise for six seasons means to you and your fans. So odds are, Nash will remain a Sun until the end.

And that’s a flawed strategy.

It’s over in Phoenix. The playoff contention, the “they’re always dangerous” status, the constant threat that the stars could align, the three-pointers could fall, and the Suns could bury the NBA in a barrage of offense on their way to a title. It’s through. They (still) have no defense, they have no power forward, according to Nash, they can’t rebound, and Vince Carter is an awkward shell of himself and nothing close to the offensive weapon Jason Richardson was. It’s over. The run is through.

And once a franchise that has any self-knowledge or vision realizes the run is through, it’s got to set itself up for the future. Casual NBA fans think the lottery is the worst thing that can happen to you in this league. It’s not. Purgatory is. Constantly flirting with the 8th seed while landing in the back end of the lotter year after year is the worst thing that can happen to you. Cycling through retread veterans trying to push your former star to greatness with some sort of “Space Cowboys”-esque kamikaze mission is the worst thing that can happen to you. False hope is the worst thing that can happen to you.

You have to be careful, that’s for sure. You can’t just detonate things and then go free wheeling into free agency, as the Nets did. That’s why they’re currently contemplating giving up a lung in order to get what amounts to a spleen transplant. It’s not going to help them anyway and what they give up will wind up killing them in the long run. You have to be careful with blowing it up, how you blow it up, and when.

But trading Nash? You’ll never get higher market value. Not at the trade deadline, not this summer, not next year. You could miss out on up to an entire year of Nash’s value in the event of a CBA lockout. He’s still an all-world NBA point guard who can help you win games, and thereby, he has the most value before the back which has plagued him for most of his career takes a turn for the worse or his body simply isn’t able to knock down that smooth pull-up J. It happens to every player, it will happen to Nash. But he’s got an opportunity to really help a team, and should the Suns sell him right, they would set themselves up for the future.

They could land a pick which they could convert into a high lottery pick with other assets (Vince Carter expiring!). They could land a high-upside prospect that they could build around. They could get cap space to horde and wait for the right star to appear in their midst to use as a selling point. No one wants to hear this because it’s hard on business, hard on fans, hard on players. But it won’t be as hard as the fall to irrelevance without upside.

In 2004 the Detroit Pistons won the NBA title. In 2009, they barely had anyone in the stands for their first round playoff series. That’s not what you want, no matter how much that playoff revenue helps.

Seven Seconds or Less is over. Gentry’s Heroes are gone. Trading Steve Nash is the most difficult thing for the Suns franchise to do. But it’s time to pull the trigger, before they find themselves a zombie franchise wandering the countryside in an endless back-lottery haze.

 

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.

Celtics’ Guerschon Yabusele has foot surgery, expected to be ready for training camp

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When the Boston Celtics head to training camp next fall, all eyes will be on Markelle Fultz whoever the Celtics take with the No. 1 pick. He will be the guy expected, in a few years, to lead the Celtics to the top of the mountain in the East (assuming LeBron James ever leaves that space).

But they will have another high first round pick coming in: Guerschon Yabusele, a 6’8” power forward out of France. The Celtics drafted him No. 16 a year ago, then had him go get a year of seasoning in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Yabusele is having foot surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp, reports Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

Guerschon Yabusele, a 2016 first-round pick of the Boston Celtics, underwent surgery recently to remove bone spurs from the top of both feet and will not participate in summer league, according to a league source.

Yabusele, the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, spent much of his first professional season stashed in China. He came stateside in March and latched on with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate.

For a team that lacks rebounding, Yabusele could be a fit in Boston. He has the build of an old-school power forward, but he has a face-up game on offense, a quicker first step than people think, and he can shoot the three.

The Celtics also have Ante Zizic, last year’s No. 23 pick, who played last season in Turkey. The Celtics are a deep team, will they have a roster space for Yabusele or Zizic next season? Or will at least one of them play another year overseas, stashed away and waiting for their chance? There are a lot of questions about the Celtics’ plans this summer, that is just one of them.

Could Game 4 Monday be Manu Ginobili’s last in the NBA? He hasn’t decided.

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If the San Antonio Spurs fall to the Golden State Warriors Monday night, their season comes to an end. A frustrating one because of the “what might have been?” questions if Kawhi Leonard had not rolled his ankle.

It also could be the last time we see Manu Ginobili play.

The Argentinian with the clever passing and high IQ game will turn 40 before next season starts and has hinted at this being his last year. He’s also not thinking about that right now and told the San Antonio Express-News he has yet to make a decision on his future.

“I’m going to go game by game,” Ginobili said. “We’ll see if (Monday) is the last one of the season. We hope that it’s not, and that we have a few more. Once it’s over, then I’ll start wondering what the future brings.”

Of course he said that, what else would he have said?

The question for athletes at his point in their careers becomes this: Do I want to still put in the extra work it takes to get my body ready to play at this level? Listen to the greats that left the game recently — Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett — and that’s the common theme. They were ready to move on, they didn’t want to be working out at 7 a.m. all summer long and avoiding trips to In-n-Out (or Whataburger for Duncan) because they had to prepare for another long grind of a season.

Does Ginobili want to put in the work? It didn’t sound like it over the course of the season, but who knows. He made $14 million this season, that’s a lot of motivation to come back.

If he does leave, he will be missed. There hasn’t been anyone quite like him in the game.