Monday , Aug , 02 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Nash, Richardson make Phoenix a contender

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Phoenix Suns were able to make two
significant free agent signings this offseason and should be a serious threat
in the Western Conference in the 2004-05 season.

Phoenix inked guards Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson to lucrative, multi-
year deals. The 30-year-old Nash had spent the previous six seasons with the
Dallas Mavericks, while Richardson, who was a restricted free agent, was able
to sign with the Suns when the Los Angeles Clippers decided not to match
Phoenix’ offer.

The 24-year-old Richardson is Phoenix’ most recent acquisition. He officially
became a member of the Suns on July 29, as the Clippers allowed him to move on
with his career.

“I just want to extend my gratitude to Bryan (Colangelo) and Coach (Mike)
D’Antoni and everybody out there who was pulling for me to be a Sun,” said
Richardson. “It was a long and hard process with ups and downs throughout. BC
came through. Everything the Clippers through at him, he had answers for
them. We got it down at the end of the day.”

Originally selected out of DePaul by the Clippers in the first round (18th
pick overall) of the 2000 NBA Draft, Richardson is coming off the best season
of his four-year career. He played in 65 games in 2003-04 for the Clippers and
averaged career-highs in points (17.2 ppg), rebounds (6.4 rpg), assists (2.1
apg) and steals (1.03 spg).

Nash signed with the Suns on July 14, which was the first day players were
able to begin signing contracts. Nash, who began his career in Phoenix,
averaged 14.5 points and a career-high 8.8 assists per contest last season for
the Mavericks. The steady point guard was originally selected out of Santa
Clara by the Suns with the 15th overall in the 1996 draft and was later traded
to Dallas prior to the 1998-99 season for Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, the
draft rights to Pat Garrity and a 1999 first-round pick.

The Suns new floor general has averaged 12.5 points and six assists per game
during his career. The Santa Clara product has also played in 51 playoff
contests during his eight-year career.

With forwards Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion already on its roster, Phoenix
has the makings of a potent lineup that could do some serious damage in the
West.

“I’ve talked to Amare,” said Richardson. “I’ve known Shawn a long time. We
were playing every summer and I’ve known him for a few years now. I’m just
excited to be a part of it.”

With the re-building of the Los Angeles Lakers and the absence of the dominant
Shaquille O’Neal, who is now a member of the Miami Heat, the Suns have to be
considered a serious threat in West.

“They got the big beast out of LA, so I think it’s wide open,” said
Richardson. “Getting him out of LA makes things a lot easier. I got tired of
running into him in the middle.

Players that could fit into the new way Phoenix wanted to play had to be
added in the offseason, as the Suns were a brutal 29-53 last season and
missed the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

Phoenix’ front office has put together an athletic squad that will score a lot
in transition. The Suns have a competent point guard who is consistent and
does not make a lot of foolish mistakes. Nash’s steady play will be the
perfect complement for the athletic threesome of Marion, Richardson and
Stoudemire. The Suns’ management has to be happy with the versatility that
they have on their squad.

“Our depth is something that’s really uncanny,” said Colangelo. “Our players
play multiple positions. The only true player at his position is Steve Nash.
We’ve got everybody else who can play multiple positions. You see Joe Johnson
out there sometimes playing playmaker. Leandro Barbosa, is he a two or a one?
Right now, we’re not sure, but you know what? We know he’s good. When you look
at Shawn (Marion), he’s going to be playing a lot this summer with the Olympic
team as a small four. You’re going to see that sometimes. We’re going to race
up and down the court. We’re going to run people out of the gym. It’s going to
be a highlight reel in terms of the talent we’re going to be putting out on
the floor. Someone to throw lob passes to the guys running the wings.
Rebounders who can actually go out and put the ball on the floor and have
others fill the lanes. This is the ultimate utility guy right now. He can play
multiple positions. He’s one of the best post-up guards in the league, one of
the best rebounding guards in the league. To lock anybody into a position is
unfair.”

Basketball is going to take off in Phoenix once again. With the additions of
Nash and Richardson, the Suns are suddenly contenders, not pretenders.

PHO