Phoenix fans (mostly) welcome former Suns star Steve Nash
PHOENIX — One by one, the Lakers were introduced before their game. Predictably, loud boos followed.
But Phoenix Suns fans couldn’t dismiss the guy affectionately known as “Two-Time” around here. So they cheered when Steve Nash’s name was called.
There were some boos as well, some fans feeling slighted that Nash green-lighted a trade last July to the Lakers, a Pacific Division rival.
If only they had heard what Nash told reporters before Wednesday’s game.
“It’s a special, special place,” he said, summing up his 10 seasons with the Suns over two tours. “It’s unfortunate that all things come to an end, but to be able to come back and still be playing, I feel the energy here and it’s terrific.”
There was no doubting fans’ feelings during a Nash-in-Phoenix scoreboard montage for two minutes of a first-quarter timeout. Seemingly everybody at US Airways Center was standing in appreciation.
It was a testimony to better days for the Suns, who entered Wednesday tied for last in the Western Conference.
Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni seemed to enjoy a reunion of his own after having coached almost five seasons with the Suns in the past, two of which ended with Nash as the NBA’s most valuable player.
“It’s a phase in your career or life where it was almost perfect,” said D’Antoni, who had already been back here three times as the New York Knicks’ coach. “We had great guys, great management, and it just all fit — all the pieces fit. The fans are great, great weather — I mean, everything. There’s nothing that you could ask for four years that was better than that.”
Lakers fans might have a few things to add to it, especially with D’Antoni struggling in the first season of a four-year contract.
But the night belonged to Nash, who had 11 points in the Lakers’ 92-86 loss to the Suns.
“We’re pretty deep in trying to turn our team around. It’s pretty consuming,” Nash said. “Hopefully we can continue to turn this around and get us some wins.”
He allowed one last look into his Suns past.
“I thought I’d retire in Phoenix, but it’s a difficult business to make any sort of predictions like that,” he said. “It just became apparent in the last couple months before free agency that it wouldn’t be a home run, and that’s when other options started to become a reality.
“It just felt like they perhaps wanted to go in a new direction.”
The Lakers were given a disabled-player exception by the NBA after losing Jordan Hill for the season.
They have until March 11 to spend $1.8 million on a free agent or $1.9 million to acquire a player via trade if he’s in the last year of his contract. A free-agent signing could be only for the rest of this season.
Hill underwent season-ending hip surgery last week.
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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