View Full Version : Steve Nash article in AZ Republic

05-21-2005, 03:27 PM
Rex's assist comes up big
Early bond helped Nash leave Dallas
Paul Coro
The Arizona Republic
May. 20, 2005 12:00 AM
When Steve Nash and Rex Chapman were paired as Suns teammates in 1996, their initial years together often were a combination of hoops and hijinks.

Last July 1 found them in awkward positions, sitting across each other at a negotiating table.

On one side sat Nash, a coveted free agent who had made his mark in Dallas. On the other was his first NBA friend, now a member of the Phoenix front-office contingent that was intent on bringing him back to where his pro career began.

Still, they had to look away every time they made eye contact to avoid laughing.

When Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo pressed Nash on what it would take for him to leave Dallas, Nash looked between Jerry and Bryan Colangelo at the man sitting between and behind them. It was serious now. Chapman nodded.

There might not have been another person who could have prompted Nash to do what he did in the ensuing minutes. Nash laid out his desires and set the wheels in motion to leave Dallas and his two best friends, Mavericks teammates Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley.

All it took was $65.6 million and his comfort with Chapman.

Otherwise, Nash said the notion of leaving unfinished business in Dallas would have seemed as unthinkable as winning the league's Most Valuable Player award.

"Rex played a huge part of it," Nash said. "Him being a part of this whole thing made me comfortable enough to entertain (the idea), because it was real difficult for me. I thought it would just happen with Dallas. Because of Rex, Phoenix was an exciting and viable option."

Kentucky meets Canada

Before there was the Big Three of Nash, Nowitzki and Finley in Dallas, there was an odd couple in Phoenix. Chapman and Nash arrived in the Valley simultaneously. When Kentucky met British Columbia, Chapman was a 29-year-old married father of two on his fourth NBA stop in nine seasons. Nash was a party-hearty 22-year-old rookie out of Santa Clara.

"He taught me a lot," Nash said. "He helped me a lot, mostly off the court about not taking it too seriously, how to be a competitor and a winner. He had a better handle than most people about what it takes down the stretch to win games.

"At the time, he felt more like a big brother. He seemed like an old man. When I came back to Phoenix last summer, it made me realize how old these guys thought I was."

They shared two seasons of "being idiots" and becoming close through their conversations on team flights, when Chapman often counseled Nash about his sparse playing time behind Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson.

"A lot of times, you don't have anything besides basketball in common with your teammates," Chapman said. "Some of them you wouldn't go to dinner with if your life depended on it. Very early, I realized he was special."

But shared time in the NBA can be fleeting. When Chapman was on the cusp of a new six-year deal, Nash was traded to Dallas. The move limited their bond to infrequent calls and visits, until last summer.

Chapman flew to Dallas on June 30, the night before teams were allowed to meet with free agents. Nash had spent the previous six weeks on a European vacation and was out of touch after losing his cellphone in the first week.

He called Nash to tell him he was in Dallas, and Nash invited him over at 1 a.m., after the negotiation gates opened. Mavericks President Donnie Nelson already had been to Nash's house but made no offer.

Chapman, who has since been bumped up from scout to Phoenix's director of basketball operations, caught up with Nash for an hour before turning to the day's business.

"Do you want to leave Dallas?" Chapman asked Nash.

He didn't.

"Are you saying you're not going to leave?" he followed.

He said no.

"There was already some resentment and animosity built up at that time, because they hadn't given him an extension and allowed him to become a free agent," Chapman said.

Chapman had one more question: "Would you consider going any other place besides Phoenix?"

Nash again said no, swinging the door open.

Chapman had mixed emotions, knowing how Nash wished he could stay in Dallas. "That talk gave it an opportunity to happen," Nash said.

Making their pitch

They met again the next day at the lush Dallas home of new Suns investor John Landon. The meeting included Nash, Chapman, the Colangelos, new Suns managing owner Robert Sarver, Amaré Stoudemire, investor/consultant Steve Kerr, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, Suns director of player personnel David Griffin and Nash's agent, Bill Duffy.

"Rex facilitated a lot," Nash said. "He had both parties' best interest in sight. He was able to really be on both sides. He understood my side and the team's and bridged the gap."

He also provided comic relief, breaking up a tense moment of silence by chirping, "Has everybody seen the (butt) on Steve's girlfriend?"

After each visitor made his sales pitch, Nash, Duffy, the Colangelos and Chapman went into an office, where Nash asked for a deal covering five years at $12 million annually, based on Mike Bibby's seven-year, $80.5 million deal in 2002. "They should put Jerry in those 'never let them see you sweat' commercials," Chapman said. "He didn't even blink."

The contract ultimately became a $65.6 million deal, with a partially guaranteed sixth year. But first, Nash felt obliged to give the Mavericks another run.

Dallas owner Mark Cuban had hoped Nash would take a four-year, $36 million deal at that point. When told of a large Suns offer and their desire for an immediate answer, Cuban asked for 20 minutes and called back to ask the Suns to consider a sign-and-trade deal. Nash's head dropped.

"It was like someone just put a bullet in his chest," Chapman said.

Coming home

When the call ended, Nash proclaimed he was a Sun. He and Chapman again became constant companions.

"Emotionally, it was a tough decision because of Steve's long-term relationships," Sarver said. "Rex was reassuring to Steve that the organization was in good hands."

They hang out in town, with Nash becoming an "uncle" to Chapman's kids, Zeke and Caley. During separate travels, they talk by phone daily.

The shenanigans are flowing like 1996 all over again. Chapman cuts up Nash during press gatherings with calls of "Nerb" or "Strudel" - inside jokes - from the back of the pack.

"He made it feel like coming home instead of a new situation," Nash said.
Always linked

Steve Nash and Rex Chapman shared a more unexpected tie recently when claims of racism in the MVP voting emerged earlier this month.

Chapman emphatically believes Nash deserved the MVP, but said the notion that some voters picked Nash because he is White could not be dismissed. It brought out regretful memories of Chapman's playing days at Kentucky, where he said athletic officials, boosters and others discouraged him from dating Black women.

The Kentucky native even had an epithet keyed into his car door. He said he did not want to leave school after two years, but did so because he resented the racism around him.

"I'm getting cheered on the court as much as any 'Great White Hope' could be and despised off of it," he said.
- Paul Coro

harsh euro barge
05-22-2005, 12:40 PM
["There was already some resentment and animosity built up at that time, because they hadn't given him an extension and allowed him to become a free agent," Chapman said.

Didn't Steve and his agent reject any exstension the Mavs offerred? Which made sense, sinse it only gave him marginal raises over his current contract at the time.

05-22-2005, 01:48 PM
According to Cuban, yes that is true. They wanted to extend him for six years, with 12.5% raises every year. (This was before Cuban decided that he really was better off without Nash, mind you.) But Steve, and everyone else, knew that he could get more money than that as a free agent.

The most interesting part of this article is that Steve's asking price was 5 years at 12 per. Cuban wanted to go 4 years at 9 per. If you truly want to keep the player, it seems like the two sides aren't that far apart, really.

05-22-2005, 10:26 PM
Not that far apart? Really? Somehow the $36MM that Cuban offered and the $65MM that Nash ultimately got sounds kinda far apart to me....even in the crazy-inflated world of $port$ dollar$.

Interesting thing from this article is that it reminds me of the kind of Suns mini-mafia that exists in the TNT broadcast personnel---Barkley, who is a Suns ex, and an admitted Suns fan; Kerr, who is alluded to in this article as an investor/consultant; and Rex Chapman, for whatever it is he does for the Suns.

Chapman has developed into one of the most irritating drones on the broadcast circuit, with some of the least interesting commentary and most awkward interjections. Can't imagine what secrets he must know to keep that spot.

Except for this:

"A lot of times, you don't have anything besides basketball in common with your teammates," Chapman said. "Some of them you wouldn't go to dinner with if your life depended on it. Very early, I realized he was special."

My guess is that hanging out with the players from most teams would not be all that socially fulfilling.

05-22-2005, 11:28 PM
Not that far apart? Really? Somehow the $36MM that Cuban offered and the $65MM that Nash ultimately got sounds kinda far apart to me....even in the crazy-inflated world of $port$ dollar$.It's not 36 versus 65, since you have an extra year in one of the deals. It's 3MM per year, and it's the difference in the offer and the asking price, both of which are sure to move toward the other in negotiations--IF both sides want to get a deal done.

From the sound of Mark's blog, he'd have gone 5 and 50 or more, if it came to it. He may have even been more likely to go something like 4 and 48. Now you're getting much closer to numbers Nash could have agreed to--again, as long as we are talking about two parties who both want to get a deal done.

Problem is, the way I sense it, the situation probably included two parties who neither one really wanted to get a deal done.

05-23-2005, 02:27 AM
I'm sick of this. Last year all of you guys were just saying fuck Na$h, he left, he didn't want to be here, blah, blah. And now all of you think that it's been Cubans fault all of a sudden... Only because Nash is somewhat succesful right now...

Last year he's been the maglignant, greedy a$$.

Now all of you would give him a f'ing blowjob to get him back here.

Don't get me wrong, I like Steve. I like his playing style, his lockerroom karma and the way he spoke out his liberal mind, but I still think that we were better off without him this year, because a lot of the trades wouldn't have been done if he were still here. And he wouldn't be as good as he seems to be in Phoenix if he were here, because he didn't have the players to suite his style. Plus, we will be even more better off next year.

05-23-2005, 11:50 AM
The decision NOT to match Phoenix was a gamble. It was gamble that risked NOT having him this year, but hoping it will pay-off in 2 or 3 years (maybe even more).

So, a true assessment of the decision can NOT be acheived until after the 2 or 3 years expected.

One year removed, so far everything has occured as expected. Nash is still very good (further enhanced by his teammates), and Dallas is still very young with potential.