Despite coming awfully close to winning the Western Confernece last year, the Phoenix Suns should have a radically different roster next Autumn, writes the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro.
The Suns snagged a bargain Monday by coming to terms with Brian Grant (above) for a two-year deal, starting at the $1.67 million biannual exception and adding a player option for a second season. With Grant still collecting $29.8 million in the next two years as the Lakers’ amnesty waiver choice, he will be this season’s richest Suns player. The wealth, born from a seven-year, $80 million deal in 1999 with Miami, freed Grant to pick a fifth NBA stop for pure basketball reasons.
The Grant pickup did not cease efforts to land swingman Michael Finley as a means of soothing the departure of Joe Johnson, whose trade to Atlanta should close Friday. Finley was waived just before 9 p.m. Monday, the deadline for amnesty cuts, as Dallas could not trade him to the East.
Miami was considered the favorite, if not a lock by some insiders, because Stan Van Gundy coached him at Wisconsin, he has the same agent as Dwyane Wade and the Heat has all of its $5 million midlevel exception available. Like Phoenix’s hole at shooting guard, Finley could start as Miami’s small forward.
Those signals could have been a decoy benefiting Phoenix, the last team Dallas wanted to help again after seeing Nash leave last year.
San Antonio, Denver and Detroit are also interested with two to four times more money to offer than Phoenix. The Suns have Nash, his close friend, and can give his veteran minimum of $1,138,500 because they have no salary-cap room.
The Suns also have engaged in talks regarding free-agent point guard Gary Payton, who has publicly expressed interest in backing up Nash. However, landing Payton could require using the $4.9 million trade exception Phoenix will get in the Johnson trade.
Although five deals are not official, Phoenix figures to have eight new players in the mix. Only Nash, Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Jim Jackson and Leandro Barbosa are expected back.