How sweet would it be to see the future hall-of-fame Canadian suit up for the league’s only Canadian team? It might make the Raptors relevant on a grand stage for the first time since they lead the Atlantic in 2006, passing the Boston Celtics in the standings en route to a playoff appearance. This would be the Raptors second future hall-of-fame signing since Hakeem Olajuwon- yes, that guy – was traded to the Raptors in 2011, where he ended his career.
General Manager Bryan Colangelo has already stated that going after Steve Nash would be the Raptors top, maybe even only, priority this summer. And they’re going to push hard; there’s no question about that. Now that the rumour mill is flooding, multiple sources have already claimed the Raptors will offer Steve Nash (aka Kid Canada) $36 million for three years, with an option for a third year. It almost seems too good to be true.
Of course, there will be other teams in the hunt for Nash’s services, including the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, who have other things to offer: like, say, championships. Nash has never won a championship in his 16-long pro career but surprisingly, he’d rather play out his final three years in comfort than win a championship.
“I would love to win a Championship, yes, but I’m not one of those people who believe I must win one to have a fulfilling career, so other factors, such as salary, family, playing time, and opportunity for team success all factor in,” Nash told SLAM Magazine.
“The Raptors would be one of those teams where you’re probably not going there to win a championship in the next three years. For me it’d be going home to Canada, to a great city, and trying to help an organization move forward.”
Nash is a native Canadian, born in South Africa though bred in B.C. He was one of four Canadian athletes to hold the torch at the Vancouver games in 2010 and that’s exactly what the Raps focused on when they made their first pitch to the point guard this past Sunday in New York.
“Their pitch to Nash focused on his chance to return to his native Canada and dramatically help what the Raptors are building while becoming even more of a legend in his native country,” reports Sam Ammick of Sports Illustrated.
What’s even more telling is that Nash has extensive ties to the Raptors. Firstly, Jay Triano, current Vice President of Pro Scouting, coached Nash on the Canadian Olympic team in 2000 (and will partner with him to lead Canada’s next Olympic team in 2016 and 2020) and secondly, Colangelo was the man who inked Nash with the Suns in the summer of ’04.
“From a Raptors perspective, this would be the biggest free-agent acquisition in franchise history, with apologies to an over-the-hill Olajuwon in 2001 and an embarrassing Hedo Turkoglu in 2009,” writes Erik Koreen of the Globe and Mail. “On the positive side, Nash immediately improves the talent that the Raptors have.”
That he would. Nash, even at age 38, average a double-double a year ago with 10.7 assists per game and 12.5 points per game. Now hear this: his assists were second in the entire league last year, second only to that of Rajon Rondo, a guy who is 12 years younger than him. Other than Rondo, nobody had more assists per game than Nash, not even Jose Calderon. Along with Rondo, he was the only point guard to average a double-double with points and assist (and was 12th in overall double doubles with 27; everyone higher was either a centre or power forward).
He also had the highest field goal percentage amongst NBA point guards in the league last year, shooting a whopping .532% (11th overall). The second place guy? That’s Denver’s Ty Lawson. He shot .488%.
Basically, he was the best pure point guard in the Western Conference last year. No big deal. And, oh yeah, in his career he’s won two MVPs. And maybe even more important is what the numbers don’t say; it’s the leader that Nash is both on the court and off the court. Also, just for the record, he was named the 9th greatest point guard ever by ESPN.
In order to make sure they get him, the Raptors showed a video of Wayne Gretzky, no joke, while pitching to Nash to come home.
It’s not like the Raptors don’t have the money to spend, either. The Raptors could have anywhere between $10 million to $23 million depending on whether they choose to use the amnesty clause.
Meanwhile, Nash will consider all of his offers but said that the opportunity to come to Toronto is different for him.
“I’m going to look at every opportunity and Toronto will be one that I’ll study as well and look at the opportunity for them to grow in the next three years and what kind of impact I can have on that team. And obviously from a community standpoint, it’s a special place for me,” he told ESPN.
The most recent status of the whole Steve Nash sweepstakes?
“We’ll know by dinnertime Wednesday, maybe before, which way he’s going to go,” wrote TheStar.com’s Doug Smith earlier today.
In the end, only time will tell if the greatest Canadian basketball player ever chooses to come home, or to win a championship with a real contender.
As always though, we’ll keep you posted.