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.

 

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
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In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.