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.

 

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.