Are Suns done with Nash?

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

For the first time in nine years, Steve Nash won't be appearing in the post-season.

For the first time in a long time, Nash is heading into an uncertain off-season.

Depending on which direction the Phoenix Suns decide to take, Nash either will remain a fixture in the Arizona desert or he'll be playing elsewhere.

Suns owner Robert Sarver resisted the temptation to blow up the team earlier in the season when it appeared the Suns had taken a turn for the better following the dismissal of head coach Terry Porter.

Sarver, like many owners of professional sports teams, is feeling the economic pinch, meaning it's no cinch players such as Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal will return next season.

Heading into last night's finale against the visiting Golden State Warriors, Nash was on the cusp of joining the rarest of NBA players to shoot at least .500/.400/.900 for three consecutive seasons.

That is, shooting at least 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the three-point arc and 90% from the charity stripe. The only other player to reach the target in back-to-back-to-back seasons is the legendary Larry Bird.

There's no reason why Nash can't make it a fourth, regardless of which uniform he dons next season.

O'Neal, given his penchant for running off at the mouth, is certain Sarver will make decisions based on economics and not related to basketball.

"There are two types of business owners,'' the Big Aristotle told reporters. "Do you want to win or do you want to save money? Period.

"(Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban) spends money. I don't think he wants to save money. I've been around 17 years and that's what it is.

"You either want to win and don't really care about the salary cap or you want to be under the salary cap. At the end of the season, I'm sure everybody will be prepared for whatever happens."

Sarver finds himself in the precarious position of being over the league's tax threshold, when a dollar-for-dollar penalty kicks in.

He's got three big-ticket contracts in Shaq, Nash and Stoudemire and at least one will be moved to help Sarver's bottom line.

Bang for their Bucks

Ex-Raptors forward and good guy Charlie Villanueva knows he may be a casualty of the business of basketball.

A restricted free agent this summer, Villanueva can expect more than a few teams to be calling.

Given that money is tight for the small-market Milwaukee Bucks, GM John Hammond doesn't have much wiggle room to improve his roster, while staying below the tax threshold.

Point guard Ramon Sessions also will be a restricted free agent and many believe Sessions looms as a bigger priority than Villanueva.

Villanueva, who was traded from Toronto three years ago, thought he was on the move last off-season, but the Bucks instead jettisoned Yi Jianlian to New Jersey.

"At the end of the day, I'm going to look for the best opportunity for me and my family,'' Villanueva told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

To retain the right to match, the Bucks have to submit an offer of $4.6 million US by June 30 to Villanueva.

NBA free agency kicks in on July 1.

By rules, teams have a seven-day window to match any offer made to a restricted free agent.

Thorn on their side

Nets president Rod Thorn, who drafted Michael Jordan in 1984 as general manager of the Chicago Bulls, isn't happy that New Jersey won't be making the post-season.

But he's glad at the team's progress.

The Nets are young and are poised to get better in the coming years.

If they can somehow move Vince Carter's large contract, the rebuilding will be accelerated.

"We plan to be active," Thorn told reporters. "I just don't know in what direction yet other than the draft."

A year ago, Thorn traded Richard Jefferson's contract and used a first-round pick to select Brook Lopez.

Don't be surprised if Thorn makes a push for Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.


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