Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

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Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

From Comcast SportsNet
PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash is going to the Los Angeles Lakers, a Pacific Division rival the two-time MVP point guard tried so hard to beat, with little success, in his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns. At Nash's request, the Lakers and Suns reached a sign-and-trade deal, with Los Angeles using the trade exception it got when it sent Lamar Odom to Dallas to facilitate the transaction. The 38-year-old Nash, who spent the past eight seasons with the Suns, was a free agent but a sign-and-trade agreement was necessary for the Lakers to afford him. He agreed to a three-year, 27 million contract. In return, the Suns get four draft picks -- first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. Nash's agent Bill Duffy said the deal was finalized Wednesday. In a statement released by the agent, Nash said that after he and the Suns agreed to part ways, he re-approached them to ask to pursue a sign-and-trade deal with Los Angeles "because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family," who live in Phoenix. "They were very apprehensive and didn't want to do it," Nash said. "Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better." There had been sign-and-trade talks with New York and a lucrative free agent offer from Toronto. The deal will put Nash on the floor with the team he tried so hard to unseat as a Western Conference power, teaming him with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and at least for now, Pau Gasol. The Suns at least get something in the loss of their longtime leader and one of the city's most popular athletes, although no one to help immediately, unless some or all of the picks are used in future trades. Nash's Phoenix teammate, Jared Dudley, tweeted that Nash "has not only been the best but the most unselfish player I ever played with. I only wish him the best. He deserves everything. Steve Nash has made many players millions. Only fitting to trade to a team that has a chance to win the ship and pay what he deserves." Nash has never made it to the NBA Finals. He was last in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers in 2010, when the Suns lost in six games and Los Angeles went on to win the NBA title. The sign-and-trade agreement first was reported by sports personality John Gambadoro of KTAR radio. The Suns drafted Nash in 1998 but traded him to Dallas after two seasons because Phoenix already had Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd at the position. Nash played six seasons for Dallas but bolted when owner Mark Cuban declined to spend big money to keep him. Then-Suns owner Jerry Colangelo brought a plane load of team players and officials to Dallas to woo Nash. Nash thrived in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, earning MVP honors in 2005, when he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists, and again in 2006, when he averaged a career-high 18.8 points and 10.5 assists. Nash averaged fewer than 10 assists only once, 9.7 in 2008-09, and topped 11 per game five times in his eight years with Phoenix. Despite his age and the fact his team failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, Nash was second in the NBA in assists last season at 10.7 and averaged 12.7 points. His 53 percent shooting rate was a career high. He is one of the most accurate free throw shooters in NBA history at 90.4 percent. His 9,916 assists rank him fifth in NBA history behind, in order, John Stockton, Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. The Suns resisted trading Nash during his final season and insisted they were interested in bringing him back, but they never seriously were in the discussion. Toronto and New York dominated the talk until the Lakers came on with a flash on Tuesday. Nash's arrival should rejuvenate the Lakers, who lost in the second round for the second straight postseason after their back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers struggled to move from departed coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense to new coach Mike Brown's system during the lockout-shortened season, with four-time All-Star forward Gasol particularly failing to fit in while getting pushed to the third option on offense most nights. Nash's peerless playmaking abilities and veteran presence could smooth over those problems, particularly after a full training camp to define the Lakers' roles in Brown's offense. Los Angeles hasn't had an elite point guard alongside Bryant for several seasons, failing to address Derek Fisher's gradual decline while the rest of the West got better. The Lakers got sub-par play last season from the 37-year-old Fisher, who was traded to Houston at the deadline. The five-time NBA champion was replaced in the starting lineup by journeyman Ramon Sessions, who provided speed and scoring but struggled badly in his first career playoff run, nearly disappearing from the Lakers' lineup. Sessions' decision last month to decline his player option for next season means his career with the Lakers is finished unless he's interested in returning as a backup, an unlikely prospect. The draft picks probably don't mean too much to the Lakers, who have traded away their first-round picks the past three seasons. They haven't drafted a regular starter since 2005.

McAdam: Amid the champagne flowing, a focus on Farrell’s fight

McAdam: Amid the champagne flowing, a focus on Farrell’s fight

NEW YORK - Scenes from a celebrating clubhouse, late Wednesday night:

*As champagne flowed and was sprayed to every virtually corner of the visitor's clubhouse, plots were being hatched.

Some mischevious players gathered to plot out their plan of attack and select a new victim.

Once all teammates had been targeted, the focus shifted to others -- preferably the nicer dressed visitors.

Principal owner John Henry, dressed in a suit, was spared - both out of decorum, and, one senses, self-preservation. In past years, someone like Kevin Millar might have entertained such a notion, but this group lacks that same sort of bold figure.

Then, finally, the group spied manager John Farrell being interviewed across the way. The group -- mostly pitchers -- assembled and then circled the manager before finally dumping bottle after bottle of champagne on Farrell's head.

But this display went beyond prank. There was a genuine affection for the manager as the surrounding players whooped and hollared and the the bubbly flowed.

"He's a fighter,'' remarked Mookie Betts. "He instilled that in us. You fight to win.''

Torey Lovullo, who managed the team in Farrell's absence last year and has been a close friend for years, was overcome with emotion.

"I told him I loved him,'' Lovullo said. "For what he's done, to come out on the other side health-wise....he's the leader of this team. It's very satisfying for all of us that have been behind him.''

Players messed his hair, patted him on the back, and Farrell, with a huge smile, stood and -- literally -- soaked it in.

For the past few days, Farrell had gone to great lengths to turn the focus away from his personal story -- one that saw him beat back cancer a year ago -- and turn it back to the players.

Hours before the clinching, Farrell had deflected a few questions about his own story, insisting he wasn't the centerpiece to what had taken place.

But for a few minutes Wednesday night, he was.

 

*While there were prominent veterans celebrating a division title — from 40-something David Ortiz and Koji Uehara to team greybeards such as Dustin Pedroia -- it was hard not to notice the number of young players under 26 who form the Red Sox’ foundation.

Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada are all young and still improving.

With Ortiz headed to retirement, Uehara eligible for free agency and uncertainty surrounding others, it's clear that the young core will form the nucleus of Red Sox teams for years to come.

The organization's hope is that that same group will help ensure against the up-and-down trajectory of recent seasons -- last, first, last, last and now first again.

"I think the way baseball's going these days,'' Henry told the Boston Herald, "if you don't have good young players, you're in trouble.''

"Looking ahead,'' added Pedroia, "we've got a lot of young players who are just going to get better.''

 

Rex Ryan’s erratic act is his lone consistency

Rex Ryan’s erratic act is his lone consistency

With the Bills 0-2 and sinking slowly in a morass of dysfunction last week, Rex Ryan was anything but his corny, wise-cracking, false-bravado-bringing self. He was subdued before the Bills took on the Cardinals.

Now, with the Bills having spanked Arizona and the Patriots up next, Rex is back at it with the erratic, putting forth an eyebrow-raisingly bad Bill Belichick impersonation to start the week then parachuting into a conference call with Julian Edelman posing as a Buffalo News reporter.

He’s the guy at the house party knocking over the chips and drinks at 9 p.m. and wondering where the motherscratching karaoke machine is because he wants to SING!!

Asked to account for the behavior change from last week to this, Rex’ verbatim response was a look into his addled mind.

“I was still myself, I think just part of it. This week, look guys, we know who we’re playing. When you look at the ESPN deal, I think they’re ranked number one---I don’t know. Like I said, they’re number two, but I don’t think we’re ranked number one so---look, we know the task is going to be a big one. The quarterback thing, yeah you got to be prepared and you actually have to be prepared for three different guys. They’re no dummies, they’re leaving it out there, they can know who it is, I get it. They’re certainly not going to do us any favors.”

Give that a quick re-read.

My verbal syntax and wandering trains of thought aren’t evidence of an ordered mind either, so I do empathize with Rex. But neither am I the head coach of one of 32 entries in the NFL, a pretty high-profile league in which an ordered presentation from the guy in charge is usually a positive.

I spoke at length with Tim Graham – who really does work for the Buffalo News – during our Quick Slants Podcast this week.

Rex’ constant insistence on his own authenticity feels to me like a misdirection. He chooses who he’s going to be and how he’s going to be each week. That’s the only consistent thing about him, other than the fact that he is an eminently likable guy specifically because he is so vulnerable.

 For a guy that wants to projecting an image of a guy who just doesn’t give a s***, he spends a lot of time thinking about this stuff.  

“I learned a long time ago, you got to be yourself in this league and that [acting like Bill Belichick] wouldn’t have worked,” Ryan explained. “If I tried to be like Bill Belichick that would never work for me, just like, not that he ever would, but if he’s going to try to be like somebody else, that ain’t going to work for him. And so, at least one thing we have in common is the fact that we know you better be yourself in this league and look, I think it’s hilarious when he’s on there because that’s who he is but it’s great and he does it better than anybody else. Some guys that try to copy that style, they’re phonies. Belichick does it, that’s who he is. [Gregg] Popovich is probably the closest thing in the NBA. Like those guys are classics but that’s who they are and they’re fantastic and I think the record speaks for itself but you talk about a consistent guy, Bill Belichick is the most consistent guy there is and I try to be consistent, albeit in a much different way.”

Consistent in his inconsistency. Great fun at parties. No way to go through life as an NFL head coach.