A Nash-ional obsession
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
Practically every Raptors rebuilding plan begins with the words, "Okay, first they sign Steve Nash ... "
The Dallas Mavericks guard and Victoria, B.C., native is going to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent. That's a given. But whether the Raptors have even a remote chance of luring the two-time NBA all-star north of the border is substantially less certain.
"When my time comes, I'm sure I'll be compensated," Nash told a Texas newspaper. "I'm not going to worry about it."
The main reason Nash is opting out is so he can make a lot more money than the $5.75 million US he's earning this season. The Raptors don't have any salary-cap room, so they either would have to clear some, or sign Nash to a one-year, cap-exception, budget-conscious pact with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink promise of riches in the future (which, of course, would be illegal, but difficult to prove).
Still, if you were Nash, would you give up millions of dollars to play for a really bad team? He's as patriotic as they come, but that might be pushing it.
For public consumption Nash has said his first choice is to remain in Dallas, as long as he gets a contract offer that is satisfactory in his eyes.
With that in mind, the best-case scenario for the Raptors is for the Mavs to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Not just eliminated, but humiliated. That way, maybe Mavs owner Mark Cuban will be so intent upon blowing up his team that he'll listen to anything, including complex sign-and-trade suggestions involving Nash and the Raptors.
If the post-season began today, the Mavericks would face the Los Angeles Lakers. "Obviously, the Lakers wouldn't be our favourite team to see in the first round," Nash said.
Point guard-deprived Raptors fans could not disagree more.
During a game in Seattle last week, 7-foot-1, 320-pound Lakers centre Shaquille O'Neal went crashing into a courtside row of media members.
"I could have stopped," Shaq said. "But there were a couple of guys over there I didn't like, so it was my opportunity to take people out."
The defending-champion San Antonio Spurs sent a strong message on Sunday by defeating the Lakers 95-89 at the Staples Center.
The Lakers had won 11 games in a row, but the Spurs now have won eight of their past nine. Regardless, stoic Spurs superstar Tim Duncan couldn't care less about serving notice to potential playoff opponents.
"Every year it's like this," Duncan said of the Spurs' tendency to sneak up on people. "We're not playing for attention."
Nonetheless, the Spurs got the attention of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"They're the defending champions till somebody beats them," Bryant said. "We've been in that position before."
For those wondering, the expansion Charlotte Bobcats will not have their draft position this season determined by the draft lottery. Instead, the Bobcats have been assigned the fourth-overall pick in the June 24 draft. When the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Raptors joined the NBA in 1995, they were given the sixth and seventh picks. The Grizzlies took Bryant (Big Country) Reeves sixth and the Raptors took Damon Stoudamire seventh.
There's something inherently wrong with his logic, but legendary NBAer Oscar Robertson, the only player to average a triple-double for an entire season, claims it should be easier to accomplish that feat today. So why isn't anyone doing it? Anyway, Robertson claimed assists are handed out far more easily now. "My assists were true assists," said Robertson, who averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 1961-62. "These days, if I throw the ball to you and you dribble it down the floor and score, I get an assist. If I went back and (got credit for) all of those, I might have had another 10,000." ... In an effort to solicit votes for Ron Artest as the defensive player of the year, Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle had his video staff break down every defensive possession featuring Artest through the first 71 games of this season. The results: Players guarded by Artest averaged 8.4 points (on 40% shooting) and 9.4 shots per game. "In my mind, that's the most staggering defensive statistic I've ever heard in my life," Carlisle said. Keep in mind, too, that Artest doesn't exactly spend the bulk of his time guarding the Robert Archibalds of the world ... The Boston Celtics are the only NBA franchise that does not have a dance team to provide entertainment during games, but they are considering adding one next season. Are you thinking what we're thinking? The first call the Celtics make should be to Lucy Lytes, the former Raptors Dance Pak member who was fired last month when it was discovered she had posed for a soft-porn website using the alias Lindsey Marshal.