PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are again shooting down Steve Nash trade rumors.
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby emphatically said that the two-time league MVP isn’t going anywhere, and he added center Marcin Gortat to the untouchable list.
In an email on Wednesday, he repeated the statement he made earlier in the day to The Arizona Republic, saying, “We are not trading Marcin Gortat, period. End of sentence. We are not trading Steve Nash, period, exclamation point.”
The latest denial came after ESPN reported that the Suns were in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves over trading Nash for the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft. Earlier, the New York Post mentioned a possible trade to the Knicks for Chauncey Billups, a deal that made little sense unless Nash asked for it.
The 37-year-old Nash has never publicly expressed any interest in being traded as he enters the final year of his contract with Phoenix. When his contract expires, the team could use that money for free agent acquisitions if it decides to move on without Nash.
A prolific user of Twitter, Nash has not mentioned the Suns or his contract status in recent tweets, mostly concentrating on his Showdown in Chinatown charity soccer match in New York City, his reaction to the Stanley Cup finals and subsequent riot in his beloved Vancouver. His Facebook wall is filled with pleas for him to come to the poster’s particular favorite team, or to go nowhere at all.
It seems the only way Nash would be traded is if he asked for it. Here is what he said about the subject shortly after last season ended:
“This is my team. I feel like this is my home as a basketball player and I want to try to get back to the playoffs with this team, try to build this team into a contender again,” he said. “It’s pretty simple. There’s no guarantees. You can’t just go out and say, ‘Hey, can you go out and trade me to this team?’ It’s very abstract to think of what the alternative is. But that’s beside the point. I want to be a part of this team.”
He’d even entertain an extension. Nash wants to play two more seasons — somewhere in the NBA.
The Suns have had difficulty finding a point guard to groom as Nash’s successor. Aaron Brooks, acquired in a late-season trade with Houston, struggled in that role and it’s uncertain whether the Suns will exercise the team option for another year of the ex-Oregon star’s contract.
That led to speculation that Phoenix might draft BYU’s dynamic Jimmer Fredette and try to convert him into an NBA guard. Conventional wisdom, though, has them going for a power forward with the No. 13 pick Thursday night, their only selection in the draft.
A rumor about Gortat being traded so concerned the Suns that Babby called the Polish center to assure him he remained firmly in the team’s plans.
Gortat reveled in his place alongside Nash on the court. Obtained in the mega-trade with Orlando, Gortat averaged 13 points and 9.3 rebounds in his 50 games with Phoenix, eventually absorbing most of the ineffective Robin Lopez’s playing time.
Nash, in his 14th NBA season, averaged 14.7 points per game. At 11.4 per game, he led the NBA in assists for the fifth time in his seven seasons since rejoining the Suns in 2004. He shot 49 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from 3-point range. By making 90 percent of his free throws, he was the on-again, off-again holder of the NBA record for career accuracy from the foul line.