PHOENIX – Counting this season, Steve Nash has been with the Suns for most of his 13-year NBA career.
You can be sure he bleeds purple and orange now after seeing this season cut him open.
The wounds began with a new coach, Terry Porter, changing the offense, taking it away from his playmaking strengths.
Nash was pierced again when the Suns stunned him by trading his best friend on the team, Raja Bell, a deal he later criticized more for letting Boris Diaw go.
Nash took the final blow last week when his team was eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in nine years.
We also know how deep his Suns blood runs, because after everything that went awry for him he still wants to be a part of the team.
“I still want to make it work in Phoenix,” he said.
But for the first time since returning in 2004, Nash’s place with the Suns is no sure thing.
He will be entering the final year of his contract, a $13,125,000 team option with about $8 million in guaranteed money. General Manager and ex-Arizona Wildcat Steve Kerr told Nash during the season that he wants to talk about a contract extension after the season.
Even that does not guarantee Nash’s future with the Suns. After missing the playoffs, Nash could decline an extension if he is unhappy with the offer or the offseason plan. He wants to play four more seasons.
“My first priority is to sit down and listen to Steve and (Suns Managing Partner) Robert (Sarver) and hear what their wish is and what their plan is for the team,” Nash said. “I can be a part of us revamping here.
“I’m under the impression they want to talk an extension, and I do, too. Hopefully we can find ourselves in a position where we can revamp and be back in the playoffs and hopefully be a contender. Hopefully I’ll be a part of the plan.”
Nash, 35, still is a special offensive player. If he maintains his fifth consecutive 50 percent field-goal shooting season in the final two games, Nash would become the first player in NBA history to record three seasons in which he shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Nash went from averaging 13.8 points under Porter to 19.1 once interim Alvin Gentry restored the team’s Nash-and-dash style. Nash’s assist-to-turnover ratio improved from 2.6-to 1 to 3.7-to 1.
Nash does not help the Suns’ glaring weakness – defense. If he is still the first line of defense, there might have to be a defensive upgrade in his backcourt sidekick (Jason Richardson) or the back line of defense (Amaré Stoudemire and/or Shaquille O’Neal).
“If they wanted to pursue other options or had opportunities to make the team better by moving me or wanted to dump my salary . . . nothing’s set in stone,” Nash said.
“I hope we can make it work and we can improve for next year. I feel as good as I’ve ever felt. I feel like I’ve got a lot left to give.
“I have a loyalty to getting this team back to where we were a few years ago and hopefully even beyond.”
Media ups and downs
Go figure: Matinee idol Tiger Woods tied for sixth but CBS still got lucky at the Masters.
CBS got two playoff holes Sunday – any overtime action helps TV sports ratings – and a sturdy story line in likable Kenny Perry, 48, aiming to become the oldest Masters winner.
Which, conveniently, allowed CBS on Sunday to show famous Jack Nicklaus Masters highlights from 1986, when he became the oldest winner at 46.
CBS’ biggest break was its dream undercard – Woods paired with Phil Mickelson. They just happened to be teeing off as CBS began its coverage Sunday, so their shots mixed in with CBS’ Jim Nantz pointing out the “just spectacular” conditions.
New media: On its Houston-St. Louis game Saturday, Fox’s baseball coverage debuted Twittering from its announcers. Fox’s Joe Buck, in a tweet, showed how the evolving online medium can deliver true candor:
“Cold in the booth in STL. Tim (McCarver) and I are bundled up. And snuggling.” And “sharing!” . . . Today in Chicago, ESPN will launch what could be the first of many – an ESPN Web site devoted to a single local market. ESPN, which has owned a radio station in Chicago for a decade, went with a clever title: espnchicago.com.
On tap: The NFL Network, says spokesman Dennis Johnson, will announce Monday that recently fired Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden will join the NFLN’s NFL Draft coverage.
Given Gruden worked the NFLN’s NFL Scouting Combine coverage, it looks like he has a TV gig if he doesn’t coach again . . . With the NFL, too much is never enough: Collectively, the NFLN and ESPN/ESPN2, will devote five hours of prime time Tuesday to covering the announcement of the NFL’s game “schedule.” Expect specials on long-range predictions for game-time weather conditions. Just kidding.
Derby title for McCarthy?
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Derby will mark its 135th anniversary with one of the most compelling story lines in the fabled history of the nation’s premier race.
Thomas McCarthy, a 75-year-old prostate cancer survivor who struggled in anonymity in thoroughbred racing for almost five decades, will bring the only horse he owns and trains to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May with a legitimate shot at bringing home the roses.
General Quarters emerged as the sentimental favorite for the May 2 Derby when he took the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes by one and one-half convincing lengths on Saturday at Keeneland Race Course.
“I was always hoping to go (to the Derby),” McCarthy said. “I always thought, ‘Is this the one? Is this the one?’ They weren’t.
“But this is the one.”
There is nothing about General Quarters that points to him as a potential Derby champion except his performance.
He sold for a relatively meager $20,000 as a yearling at a Keeneland auction in 2007.
His initial trainer, Wesley Ward, made him available for the same $20,000 before his winning Churchill Downs debut last May 30. When McCarthy looked at the son of Sky Mesa in advance of that race, he saw a gangly youngster who had a funky way of turning his right front foot.
But he took a chance because he had never known what it was like to have a stakes winner in his barn. And the retired Louisville high school principal realized that you never know when one might come along.
“The man has had a 50-year-old dream,” said Mike Adams, McCarthy’s son-in-law. “He never gave up.”
Q1: What song did CBS play to open the UA-Kentucky national championship game in 1997?
Q2: Who did Kentucky beat in the national semifinal that year?
Q3: Who was Kentucky’s leading scorer that year that missed the UA game with an injury?
A1: “Mony Mony” by Tommy James and The Shondells.
A2: Kentucky beat No. 1-seeded Minnesota 78-69.
A3: Derek Anderson, who tore his ACL in January and missed the rest of the season.
The Bounce: Nash wants to be part of Suns’ rebuilding process
ON THIS DATE
1984: Pete Rose of the Montreal Expos collects the 4,000th hit of his career with a double off Philadelphia’s Jerry Koosman in the fourth inning.
1991: Pete Weber wins four games to become the second player in PBA history to win the BPAA U.S. Open twice, this time with a 289-184 victory over Mark Thayer.
1993: Lee Smith becomes the career saves leader as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-7. Smith gets the last three outs to register his 358th save, surpassing Jeff Reardon of the Cincinnati Reds.
Miller’s first recruit has fans energized
Re: UA gets oral commitment from Kyryl Natyazhko
• To Tim Floyd: Thank you for staying at USC! I’m pumped for next BB season. (Livengood), you have hit a walkoff grand slam with the hiring of coach Miller. I do not care what we do in 2009-2010 season, because I’m confident the program has already made a positive turn in the first week of “Miller Time.” BRUTALCHILI
• I have seen tape on Kyryl Natyazhko. He is very athletic for a big kid. He can bang underneath and powers inside with the best of them. He takes no crap. Once he develops a “touch” shot from 12 feet, he will terrorize the Pac-10. 3829