Nash to T.O. ramping up

With Deron Williams possibly staying put in Brooklyn, Steve Nash has lost one of his most enticing...

With Deron Williams possibly staying put in Brooklyn, Steve Nash has lost one of his most enticing potential destinations. (Getty Images)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

NEW YORK - The Steve Nash to Toronto freight train is picking up steam.

The point guard and two-time league MVP will be one of the most coveted free agents available come July 1 and the Raptors will be among the franchises lined up with a major pitch for the Canadian superstar’s talents.

Phoenix, the team that drafted him and later signed him away from Dallas, remains in the mix along with the Mavericks, but Toronto will be an intriguing option for Nash.

Brooklyn was thought to be the frontrunner when it seemed Deron Williams was sure to bolt for his hometown of Dallas, but now all signs point to Williams staying put.

He showed up at a team media conference on Wednesday and invited head coach Avery Johnson to his birthday party the day before and appears to have bought in after seemingly being prepared to bolt as recently as a week or two ago.

A Williams return to the Nets would eliminate one of the most enticing options for Nash — he and his family live in New York City part of the time — and helps Toronto’s chances.

As has been the case since he was named Canada Basketball’s general manager last month, Nash remained coy about his future.

Nash had his annual Showdown charity soccer game in New York City on Wednesday.

When asked whether he saw Toronto as a fit, he remained diplomatic.

“Yeah, we’ll see, I’m really looking forward to talking to the teams and we’ll see where I end up,” Nash told the Sun.

Nash has previously said money will be a major factor in where he lands.

The Raptors can offer Nash the money and term he seeks, plus the opportunity to be the force that pushes basketball in Canada considerably forward.

Winning two MVP awards helped in that regard, but signing with the Raptors would take things to a completely different level.

July 1 will be an interesting day indeed.

BLAST OFF

The Houston Rockets seem intent on shaking up the NBA Draft.

On Wednesday, the team dealt Montreal’s Samuel Dalembert and the 14th pick for No. 12, Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer and Shaun Livingston.

That means Houston now has the No. 12, 16 and 18 picks and will attempt either to package them to move up for a chance at a player such as UCONN’s Andre Drummond or try to get into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes or swing another deal.

According to multiple reports, Howard won’t sign long-term in Houston, but the team might trade for him anyway.

A trade with Sacramento also remains a possibility and rumours persist that Kyle Lowry will be moved. Toronto has long held interest in the point guard, but with Nash the team’s prime point guard target, the pursuit of Lowry has been on the backburner.

Other names mentioned most often in league trade chatter are Lakers big man Pau Gasol and Atlanta forward Josh Smith.

AP HANGS THEM UP

One of the classiest players in Raptors history — and possibly the team’s best ever free agent signing to this point (with apologies to Dell Curry) — Anthony Parker is retiring.

The 37-year-old guard spent parts of three seasons in the NBA before becoming a superstar in Israel. The two-time Euroleague MVP signed a three-year contract with Toronto in 2006 and quickly became the squad’s top defender and premier outside shooter. The Raptors won a division title for the only time in franchise history in 2006-07 and Parker averaged 15.2 points per game in a six-game loss to New Jersey in the playoffs.

Parker later signed with Cleveland and spent three seasons there.

AROUND THE RIM

According to ESPN, the Clippers and Mavericks have discussed a deal involving Lamar Odom. Clippers guard Mo Williams also could be on the move, with the Lakers having interest … A report linking Wilson Chandler to Golden State for the No. 7 selection has been shot down … UNC forward Harrison Barnes also poured cold water on another ESPN report — that he wasn’t interested in playing in Sacramento.

In a pre-draft scrum, Barnes said he would be happy to go anywhere in the high lottery. “I’m not really choosing anybody, if Sacramento wants to take me, Portland, I’d be more than happy,” Barnes said … Jamal Crawford will become a free agent and Boston has interest in the former Portland combo guard … Nash is thrilled that Mississauga’s Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure is poised to become the latest Canadian picked in the first round of the draft.

“Amazing, I love his game,” Nash said when asked his thoughts on Nicholson’s achievement.

“He’s a great kid so I’m really excited, proud and can’t wait to see where he ends up. He’s going to have a terrific career.”


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