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  Sat, July 3, 2004


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No saving Raptors' bacon
But Bill Harris says that isn't the only reason why Canada's Steve Nash signed with Suns
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN

Steve Nash still may be a Raptor someday. It just won't happen till he's 35 or 36, and near the end of his NBA career. Nash actually did everyone north of the border a favour on Thursday when he quickly agreed to a five-year, $65-million US contract with the Phoenix Suns, with a partial guarantee for a sixth season.

Now, at least, Canadian basketball fans can put aside the tantalizing fantasy of Nash saving the Raptors.

You know how it was supposed to go: Nash was to come riding into Toronto on a moose, wearing a Canadian flag as a cape and drinking maple syrup from a flask. The Raptors' point-guard problems would be solved, they would switch to their red-and-white jerseys full time, the Air Canada Centre would be full and we Canadians finally would teach those hoops-obsessed Americans a thing or two, even though 90% of the Raptors roster likely would continue to be, well, American.

It was a nice dream.

As patriotic a Canadian as Nash is, he was not going to take a substantial pay cut for the sheer joy of playing for the Raptors, even with national team coach Jay Triano having been retained by the team as an assistant coach.

Nash didn't even really want to leave the Dallas Mavericks, but he opted out of a contract that would have paid him $6 million US next season because he thought, as a two-time NBA all-star, that by relative standards he was underpaid. Given the pact he got from the Suns without having to pry, it's obvious he was right about that underpaid thing.

As far as a flat-out free-agent signing is concerned, the Raptors could not even have matched the money Nash left behind in Dallas. To get Nash to Toronto, an elaborate sign-and-trade would have needed to be arranged, with players of equal contractual value headed to the Mavs. In case you haven't noticed, the Raptors aren't exactly stocked with players for whom the rest of the league is drooling.

And because of that very fact, why would Nash, at age 30, be interested in joining the Raptors, a team that has a rookie general manager (Rob Babcock), a rookie coach (Sam Mitchell), a superstar who wants out (Vince Carter) and is coming off a 33-win season?

The lure of playing in Canada would have been much stronger for Nash, a native of Victoria, B.C., had the Raptors been on the verge of a title.

So with Nash understandably reaching for his sunglasses, the Raptors will look to upgrade at point guard through less expensive, mid-range free agents.

Troy Hudson, a seven-year veteran who spent the past two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, is an option.

He has a relationship with Babcock, a former front-office executive with the T-Wolves, which could help any negotiations.

But Hudson isn't exactly John Stockton, folks. Hudson is another shoot-first guard and you'll recall that when Minnesota got serious about trying to win a championship, it felt the need to acquire Sam Cassell to play the point.

Rafer Alston, who had flashes of brilliance with the Miami Heat last season, is another possibility. But after the Raptors cast Alston aside so unceremoniously two seasons ago, he may not be keen on giving Toronto another try.

The Raptors also are intrigued by Derek Fisher, who'll turn 30 next month. But Fisher has played in the NBA final in four of the past five seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, so it's a long shot that he would want to start over with a cold-climate club that couldn't even make the playoffs.

Regardless of these obstacles, the Raptors desperately have to find some way to bolster an incumbent crop of faulty floor generals that includes Alvin Williams, Milt Palacio and Roger Mason, Jr.

Nash might get here eventually, but the Raptors can't waste another five or six years waiting for Captain Canada to play point guard for thee.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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