Nearly a week removed from the madness that was the Steve Nash sweepstakes, ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote a fascinating piece detailing the scenes as Nash embarked on his big decision. It’s certainly worth a read, and based on how directly involved the Raptors were during the whole saga, the story, “How Steve Nash Became A Laker,” has a ton of Raptors-related tid-bits.
I’ve highlighted a few of those below:
“Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo was the first caller to get through shortly after 12:01 a.m.”
To no one’s surprise, Colangelo and co. were the most eager to get things started, obviously believing their impressive offer and presentation could immediately convince Nash to come “home.” Speaking of that presentation, it appears as though all of the hype was legit. Here’s Stein on how the Raptors tried to sell Nash on Toronto:
“The Raptors were first up at 10:30 a.m., with a seven-strong contingent of team officials arriving on a cross-country flight arranged by Raptors co-owner Larry Tanenbaum.” Stein names Tanenbaum, Colangelo, Dwane Casey and Jay Triano specifically as four of the seven who made the trek, and states that the offer was presented at Tanenbaum’s Central Park apartment in Manhattan.
“The food was lavish and the contract offer rich, but the video compilation Colangelo ordered up for the occasion made an impression on Nash that moved him more than a three-year, $36 million pitch ever could.” Remember the rumours about the presentation including a taped plea from Wayne Gretzky? Well according to Stein’s report, Gretzky didn’t just appear in the video, he narrated it.
“More than one person in the room would later say that Nash was fighting back tears watching it all. “We all were,” Duffy (Nash’s agent) said. ‘It was like watching a Hall of Fame video.’” So the Raptors not only made the biggest financial offer, but also put together a video presentation narrated by “The Great One” himself, which nearly moved Nash to tears. ‘A’ for effort, I guess?
As Stein’s report on the events continues, it becomes evident that the Raptors and Knicks wanted a decision made as soon as possible, while Nash and his camp needed more time. Stein quotes Duffy as saying “They wanted us to close the deal right then,” while also describing the difficulty Nash would have had playing so far away from his children.
Still, Stein quotes Nash as admitting “Monday morning I was ready to decide between New York and Toronto.”
Colangelo reportedly remained in New York until late Tuesday and hoped for an answer from Nash before heading back to T.O. We obviously know how the story ends, in heartbreaking fashion for Raptors fans, but if it’s any consolation, Nash says he “was really close at times to being a Raptor or Knick,” adding “…to go home to Toronto was a dream opportunity in a lot of different ways.”
Though from a fan’s perspective, perhaps knowing how close we were only hurts more.
As for Colangelo, he handled getting turned down with class, being quoted by ESPN.com as saying “Our financial offer and the long-term opportunity for Steve were certainly better, but I can’t fault a guy for putting his family ahead of everything else. The fact that that he will be competing for a title made this easy for him. I’m still disappointed, but I completely understand his decision. As a friend, I wish him well.” In wrapping up the Raptors-related points from Stein’s story, he says that Nash called Colangelo and Tanenbaum separately to tell them he would become a Laker.
At the end of the day, I don’t understand the backlash from the group of Raptors fans who feel Nash somehow turned his back on his country. Normally, players are criticized for putting money ahead of winning. In Nash’s case, he put family and his quest for an overdue championship ahead of the chance to make roughly an extra $9 million playing in his home country, but in a city that’s farther from where he grew up than L.A. probably is. I’ll also point out that if you feel Nash owed something to the Raptors simply because the team is based in Canada, then you’ll have to forgive a future Raptor if he leaves Toronto with the excuse that he owes it to the U.S. to play for an American-based team. Quite simply, that’s a pretty pathetic excuse to hate on Nash.
Likewise, I was just as baffled at some fans who held the fact that Nash landed elsewhere against Colangelo and the Raptors. Based on Stein’s story, the Raptors did everything they possibly could have to bring Kid Canada home. Short of kidnapping Nash or offering him a near max offer, what else could they have done? Sure, you can criticize the short-sighted offer sheet extended to Landry Fields in the hopes of eliminating the Knicks from contention in the sweepstakes, but if you read Stein’s story, you’ll find that even Nash’s agent thought it might be a “two-horse race” between the Raptors and Knicks.
Heck, the only complaint I have from the Raptors point of view is more of a request, and that’s to get whoever put together the video presentation that nearly made Nash cry in charge of in-game videos at the ACC.
Anyway, what Stein’s story confirms is that Colangelo and the Raptors did all they could to get Nash in a Raptors uniform, and if anything, the effort and time they put into their pursuit of Nash only makes the quick rebounding to Kyle Lowry all the more impressive. From Nash’s point of view, he made a decision that made sense for him from a basketball and family perspective, Canadian business opportunities be damned.
And that’s how the Nash saga should be remembered by Raptors fans and Canadian basketball fans.
It should not be remembered as the moment Steve Nash turned his back on Canada, or as some sort of final confirmation that no one wants to play in Toronto. Nash’s place in Canadian basketball lore was cemented a long time ago, and if the Raptors build a team the right way and evolve into a winner, the city of Toronto will eventually attract the A-list free agents it deserves.
But enough looking back, it’s time to move forward.