|Steve Nash is headed to the Lakers. (Getty Images)|
An era ends in the desert and the Lakers finally get a real point guard. All in one surprise move.
The Phoenix Suns have reportedly agreed to a sign-and-trade sending point guard Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for future draft picks, according to ESPN.com and Phoenix radio station KTAR. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com has confirmed the details.
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ESPN.com reports that Nash will receive a 3-year contract worth more than $25 million.
The Arizona Republic reports the Suns will receive the Lakers' first round picks in both 2013 and 2015 while also receiving second-round picks in 2013 and 2014. Yahoo Sports reports the Lakers will send the Suns $3 million, the maximum allowed, as well.
The Lakers hold a $8.9 million trade exception created when they traded forward Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December 2011. Nash slides into that exception, Berger reports, allowing the Lakers to receive Nash without sending back salary in return.
The agreement emerged on Wednesday after reports in recent days linked Nash as a possible sign-and-trade target for the New York Knicks. The Toronto Raptors also reportedly offered Nash a 3-year contract worth $36 million.
In a statement released by his agent and obtained by the Associated Press, Nash explained that the deal materaliazed in part because Los Angeles allowed him to be close to his family who live in Phoenix.
"[The Suns] were very apprehensive and didn't want to do [the sign-and-trade with the Lakers]," Nash said. "Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better."
Nash, 38, spent the last eight seasons with the Suns, becoming the face of a franchise and a fan favorite. He averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists in 2011-12 and was named to the 2012 All-Star team, his eighth selection. He was twice named NBA MVP during his time with the Suns and he led Phoenix to the playoffs in five out of eight seasons, including back-to-back trips to the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2006.
The Lakers have been searching for a point guard for years and thought they had an agreement in place back in December for Chris Paul. Instead, the New Orleans Hornets, led by NBA commissioner David Stern, opted to trade Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving the Lakers to settle for trading for Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline. Sessions decided not to pick up his player option, though, leaving the Lakers to investigate all options, and they appear to have moved on without him quite nicely.
The Lakers now pair Nash, one of the league's premier passers and an elite shooter, with All-Star guard Kobe Bryant in a backcourt with two sure-fire Hall of Famers. They will hope the pass-first Nash can handle the delicate shot-selection balance in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Nash gets a big market, a stacked roster of talented teammates, a chance at multiple title chases and another healthy contract. Perhaps he left some overall money on the table but holding a significant role on a true contender is surely worth its weight in gold at this point in his career. Nash has never won a title in his 16-year career and the Suns missed the playoffs the last two seasons. That he will reportedly be near his family is the icing on the cake.
For Phoenix, the end was here. The Suns simply couldn't maneuver to surround Nash with enough talent to convince him to stay for one more contract. For years, Nash had put down trade rumor after trade rumor, taking a true professional's approach to his role with the team despite a sometimes rotating cast of characters and a number of difficult roster decisions. By the time he finally hit free agency this summer, it didn't seem like Phoenix had any realistic shot to keep him.
While L.A.'s Draft picks won't likely be very high in the order, they are significantly better than nothing, which is what Phoenix would have been left with had Nash simply signed outright with another team. The Suns also get the flexibility that comes with not taking back any salary in the move and the Traded Player Exception they will acquire.
Of course, the deal cannot be made official until July 11, once the NBA's 10-day free agency moratorium is complete.
Nash was ranked as the No. 6 free agent overall and No. 2 point guard in the CBSSports.com top-40 ranking of the Class of 2012 free agents.