By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: July 27, 2009
When Steve Nash signed with the Suns for his second tour of duty in 2004, everyone knew that the city was receiving an All-Star, but few knew that the franchise had just nabbed an eventual two-time MVP.
Now after a five-year span that saw four postseasons, a league-best 62 wins in 2004-05, two Western Conference Finals appearances and three Pacific Division titles, the 13-year veteran signed an extension that will keep him in Phoenix for the next three years.
“It’s a fantastic franchise, great community and I think we have a lot of really good players that will have great chemistry and work together,” Nash said. “I think especially after the up-and-down nature of last year, to re-group and realize what’s important and how we can be the best individually and collectively in an environment to do so is exciting in and of itself."
The six–time All-Star is still considered around the league as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NBA. Due to his deft passing and unparalleled ability to shoot off the dribble, Nash should continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
This past season, Nash became the first person in NBA history to shoot over 50 percent from the floor, 90 percent from the line and 40 percent from downtown for three straight seasons. Larry Bird was the only other player besides Nash to accomplish that feat in two consecutive seasons.
Nash is ninth on the NBA’s all-time assist list and joins Tim Hardaway and Dallas’ Jason Kidd as the only players in the history of the game to have compiled over 1,300 three-pointers and 7,000 assists. Last season, the 6-3 playmaker finished third in the league in dishes behind New Orleans’ Chris Paul and Utah’s Deron Williams.
"Steve is still one of the best point guards in the NBA, and his dedication to conditioning will keep him among the league's elite for several more seasons,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr. “In many ways he embodies what our franchise is all about, and we're thrilled that he will be the leader of our team for the next three years."
The deal keeps Nash in purple and orange through 2012, as well as out of next summer’s free-agency bonanza. After playing out his current contract this upcoming season, the extension will effectively kick in.
Despite the constant chatter that the three-time All-NBA First-Team point guard would explore free agency next summer and entertain offers from other suitors, Nash opted instead for the idea of creating a positive and winning environment in the Valley.
“Even if you go to the team that comes in second, what does it matter?” he said. “If you don’t win it, you don’t win it. Obviously, you want to win a championship but chasing that can be really fleeting and it’s a much more stable and challenging outlook to be a part of group that you really love and enjoy.”
One of the main reasons he returned was to play with fellow co-captain and friend, Grant Hill. Nash stated that the Suns’ inking of Hill was “extremely influential” in his decision to return.
At 35 years-old, this extension could ultimately amount to Nash finishing his career as a Sun.
And it’s a thought that sits well with him.
“You never know what can happen so I think it’s important in some ways to be thankful for what you have,” Nash said. “I really love Phoenix, being a part of this community and the fans have been fantastic for me.
“All of those things greatly outweigh the search for a title somewhere else. There‘s never any guarantees of that anyway.”
And as he added later, “No one gave us Paul Gasol for nothing.”
Nash is particularly excited to suit up again for Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who will have the opportunity to guide the team for an entire training camp. Once Gentry took over as head coach after the 2009 All-Star Break, Nash saw his statistics increase dramatically.
Despite playing in 18 less games than before the break, he had more than twice as many 20-point, 10-assist contests and averaged 4.9 points a game more under Gentry. In addition, he shot eight percent higher from the field and over five percent better from the arc during that span.
With a content Nash returning, not only are the Suns locking up a great player on the court, but a great citizen off of it. Nash, who is renowned for his community work, was the recipient of the 2007 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
In addition, he was named to the Order of Canada in 2007, his country’s highest civilian honor, for both his athletic successes and his humanitarian efforts. Also, Nash has teamed up with APS (Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electric company) to encourage environmental conservation.
Lastly, Nash has created the Steve Nash Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting underserved children in their health, personal development, education and enjoyment of life with its efforts focused in British Columbia, Arizona and his wife’s native country, Paraguay. That same unselfishness and big-picture mentality that he puts towards his charitable efforts is the same sort of spirit he hopes he can infuse amongst his teammates.
“That’s one of the most fun parts about being a part of a team and being a professional athlete,” he explained. “You get together with a group of guys and you go from a bunch of individuals to a group that has a special chemistry and loves to be around each other, that loves to play and work for each other, and is willing to give themselves up for the other guy. That really is the most rewarding thing there is in the game.”
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