Steve Nash is one of the many desirable names on the long, intoxicating list of 2010 free agents.
Yet it's looking increasingly probable that this summer will be the offseason that brings clarity to Nash's future, via one of two outcomes:
1. He will sign the multiyear contract extension that the Suns have been preparing for him.
2. The possibility that the Suns get a trade offer for Nash too good to resist.
Phoenix is expected to make Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal available in trades this offseason, just as it did before the February trading deadline, but NBA front-office sources say that the Suns will soon be getting trade pitches for Nash, ready or not.
Portland, Golden State, Toronto, New York and Houston are five teams we know of that are either readying or contemplating bids for Nash, with the Blazers listed first not only because of their interest in a push-the-pace veteran leader but because they could furnish Phoenix with multiple youngsters -- Jerryd Bayless and Travis Outlaw, just to name two for starters -- if the Suns decide they want to start over.
Let's be clear, though: Phoenix has no such desire at present, no matter how much more the two-time MVP might fetch than its other trade assets. Rebuilding without Nash is not something Suns president Steve Kerr is ready to contemplate.
"I have no interest in trading him," Kerr said Monday. "I've said many times that our interest is re-signing him. Steve is the face of our franchise. I think everybody knows that we would love to be able to extend his contract so that he retires a Sun."
Before he left for an overseas soccer-watching trip to hang out with pals Alessandro Del Piero, Kaka and Thierry Henry, Nash expressed the same hope, reiterating what he's also been saying for weeks about how he hopes he "can still make it work in Phoenix."
Yet it's likewise believed that Nash -- after missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season with Dallas -- wants to see what sort of roster maneuvering the Suns can do before he commits to signing an extension ... since Phoenix can't expect a whole lot from Tuesday's lottery with a mere 0.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick and the right to draft Blake Griffin after going 46-36.
The urgency, though, isn't felt solely by Kerr and Suns managing partner Robert Sarver. Even if Phoenix can't do a lot to change its on-the-floor look before next season, Nash would be taking an undeniable risk, at 35, to pass on a two- or three-year extension.
Nash's only other alternatives, if the sides reach the fall with no extension agreed upon, are to play out the final season of his contract at $13.2 million -- something neither side would want because of all the uncertainties attached -- or take the uncomfortable step of requesting a trade. (Don't forget that the Suns have already made one change largely for Nash's benefit by firing Terry Porter in the first year of a three-year coaching contract and replacing Porter with Alvin Gentry.)
"I'd imagine the odds are that I'll be back," Nash told The Arizona Republic's Paul Coro in April. "That's what I'm hoping for. I think that's what the front office is hoping for. If I had a bet on it, that would be the best odds."
The odds are good that we'll know a lot about the remaining three seasons Nash still wants to play by the time training camp hits.