2012 Free Agency: Save your ire for Allen, not Nash ...

Nash versus Allen would have made the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry even more fun to watch.

After leaping to the Lakers via a sign-and-trade last week, Steve Nash seems to have drawn the ire of many Suns fans for allegedly being disloyal. But Suns fans and NBA fans shouldn't feel the least bit slighted by Nash. It's Celtics fans who should be feeling the punch in the gut delivered by Ray Allen's decision to sign with their main rival, the Miami Heat.

Steve Nash had every right to want out of Phoenix.

Loyally serving the Suns for the previous eight seasons, Nash was a mainstay while the Suns transitioned from the solid ownership of Jerry Colangelo to the shaky ownership of Robert Sarver. In Nash's second stint as a Sun (Nash was drafted by the Suns in 1996 but only played two seasons for the club before moving on to Dallas for six seasons), the Suns boasted one of the NBA's most fun teams to watch, were exceptionally successful and saw a collection of talented players donning the Suns uniform, including the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa.

Upon Nash's re-arrival in 2004, the Suns competed in back-to-back Western Conference Finals and won at least 54 games for four consecutive seasons (twice winning at least 60 games), awarding Nash with two NBA MVPs for his astounding performances during that span.

But then things fell apart.

Whether it was Sarver's cost-cutting, meddling, or both, the Suns stupidly traded for Shaquille O'Neal in 2008 and made an assortment of other questionable moves that led to the franchise missing the playoffs altogether in 2008-09 (the year our Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals). And yet even with a stripped-down roster, Nash was able to guide the Suns back to the conference finals in 2010 where they lost to the Lakers in six hard-fought games.

But rather than complement that shockingly good 2009-10 team with some off-season upgrades, the Suns allowed Stoudemire to walk for nothing and merely shuffled the rest of the deck before falling to earth with a disappointing 40-42 record to conclude the 2010-11 campaign. How many teams go from the conference finals to a playoff no-show in just one year? Not many. By the time the 2011-12 season came about, long long long gone were Stoudemire (whom the Suns foolishly didn't trade to the Knicks for David Lee), Johnson, Marion, Diaw and Barbosa.

And yet Nash, who would have been well within his rights to demand a trade after the 2010-11 season, stuck with the Suns for another playoff-miss in 2011-12 and was amenable to re-signing with the Suns this summer. It wasn't until Sarver and the Suns made it apparent that rebuilding was on the near horizon that Nash started looking elsewhere ... and elsewhere led him to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

And while I know many Suns fans believe that the Lakers are their rival (we believe the Lakers are our rival in Denver, too, and so do Dallas fans, and Houston fans, and Sacramento fans, and San Antonio fans, and so on ...) given that the Suns ousted the Lakers in the playoffs twice recently and the Lakers bested them in the conference finals just two years ago, with or without Nash the Suns weren't competing with the Lakers anytime soon. All Nash-to-the-Lakers does is give the Kobe Bryant Era a two-year window to win another ring. The Suns are probably two years away (at least) from even making the playoffs.

So don't hate on Steve Nash's decision to go to the Lakers. First off, Nash was loyal to Phoenix for probably two seasons too many. Secondly, Nash isn't gravy-training on a champion like Ray Allen will be (more on that shortly). The Lakers are two years removed from even being a Finals contender and were looking like a first round out last season. (Nash's addition doesn't necessarily get them back to the Finals, just closer.) And thirdly, at 38 years old Nash's window is all but shut to win a championship, and presently Nash risks being one of just a handful of MVPs to never win a ring, joining Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose in that dubious club.

I may hate the Lakers as much or more than any other non-Lakers fan, but I'll forever root for Steve Nash. Unless he's playing against the Nuggets, of course.

Ray Allen jumping to Miami is a completely different matter altogether.

First things first, Allen has his ring (with Boston in 2008) and unlike Nash's Suns, the Celtics still have the goods around Allen to contend for another championship. Secondly, the Celtics allegedly offered Allen twice as much money as Miami did - for a 36 year old shooting guard mind you - just to keep the Celtics "Big Three" in-tact. While Sarver keeps his wallet shut, Celtics' owner Wyc Grousbeck keeps writing checks. Thirdly, unlike the Lakers, the Heat were already contending for - and winning - an NBA Championship. So it's not like the Heat needed Allen to win one, something I could understand a star player wanting to contribute to. Making matters worse, the Celtics needed Allen to defeat the Heat. And yet Allen, regardless of the reasons, chose to accept less money to play with his former franchise's most hated and fearsome rival.

Winning a second ring with Miami will do nothing for Allen's legacy. If anything, it will tarnish it.

Being a sports fan is driven by our emotions and believe me, I'd hate if a star Denver athlete jumped ship to play for a rival (or supposed rival). But if the athlete jumps ship for the right reasons - as I believe Nash has - it's hard to fault the guy.

When Nash returns to Phoenix in a Lakers uniform next season, Suns fans should give him a standing ovation for his loyal service to the Suns and for the basketball renaissance he almost single-handily brought about there.

When Allen returns to Boston in a Heat uniform, the stadium should be drowned out with boos.

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