After receiving an improved offer last week and taking a few more days to deliberate, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash notified the Phoenix Suns that he is accepting their two-year extension offer worth $22 million.
ESPN.com first reported the agreement earlier Monday and his agent, Bill Duffy, confirmed it to The Associated Press later in the day.
Sources told ESPN.com that Nash is expected to formally announce his decision via his Twitter feed later Monday.
The Suns offered Nash a two-year, $20 million extension two weeks ago in addition to the $13.1 million he's owed next season, then bumped it higher in a meeting in Las Vegas last Wednesday attended by Suns owner Robert Sarver, president of basketball operations Steve Kerr and Duffy. Nash is expected to sign the agreement later this week.
Under the agreement, $6 million of the final two years of the contract will be deferred, with $3 million being paid in each of the two years following the expiration of the contract, Duffy said.
Although signals had been getting stronger in recent days that Nash would inevitably accept an improved proposal from Sarver -- including a Twitter message in the early hours of last Thursday from teammate Jared Dudley that Nash would be "signin that ext anyday" -- it has been a nervy wait this month for the Suns, who have made no secret that securing Nash's long-term future was their No. 1 priority this offseason.
One team official confirmed that the Suns were aware that Nash strongly considered the idea of playing out his contract next season, which would have enabled him to join the ballyhooed free-agent class of 2010 and possibly move to the New York Knicks to reunite with former coach Mike D'Antoni. Nash, though, ultimately opted for security with the franchise that drafted him out of Santa Clara in 1996 and gave him the platform to earn the nickname "Two-Time" from teammates with his back-to-back MVP seasons in 2005 and 2006 after leaving the Dallas Mavericks to rejoin the Suns in the summer of 2004.
"This is one of the hardest-working and most resilient athletes to have ever played in the NBA," Duffy said of Nash, who has hushed fears about his durability by playing in an average of 77 games over the five seasons of his second stint with the Suns. "He earns every penny."
Nash had to be convinced the team was willing to take steps to become a contender again, Duffy said. He said the team has assured Nash he will be consulted as the Suns make future moves, the agent said.
Nash's public comments this month on negotiations generally gave Phoenix hope that he was prepared to spend the next three seasons in the desert -- which would take him to age 38 -- in spite of the Suns' recent slide in the West. During the recent opening of his latest Steve Nash Sports Club in his native Canada, Nash said: "I still believe in everybody there and still think we can build a winner."
In the same interview, though, Nash also mentioned the "financial constraints" that prompted the Suns to trade Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland (for the expiring contracts of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic) after O'Neal's first and only full season as a Sun resulted in a 46-36 record that featured the midseason firing of coach Terry Porter and a failure to make the playoffs.
"We maybe don't have the deep pockets of some of the other teams," Nash said, hinting at what sources close to the process described as his concerns about the Suns' ability to reload their roster during the span of his new deal to return Phoenix to the Western Conference elite.
The Suns, though, made it clear to Nash that they would refuse any outside trade interest, even if he insisted on playing out his current contract to have the right to shop himself in the summer of 2010, when D'Antoni undoubtedly would have made a hard push to try to lure Nash to the Knicks in free agency.
Sources say Portland never got close in recent weeks with its determined push to convince Phoenix to part with a package of young players for Nash, who then would have received a contract richer than the deal he ultimately accepted from the Suns.
In addition to re-signing Nash, Phoenix has drafted Earl Clark, signed free-agent forward Channing Frye, re-signed Nash's close friend Grant Hill and bought out Wallace this offseason. Still to be determined, though, is the future of Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, with Kerr announcing last week that extension talks with Stoudemire are on hold until October at the earliest and sources indicating that the club has not ruled out trading him.
With Nash's return and Alvin Gentry installed as Porter's full-time replacement, Stoudemire's value to the Suns appears to have increased, given his familiarity and history of production in the up-tempo offense that the Suns are determined to reinstate after a more deliberate style under Porter never clicked. Yet Phoenix explored the possibility of dealing Stoudemire in February before the league's annual trading deadline and again in June in conjunction with the draft.
Given Stoudemire's recent eye problems and the fact that any suitor will want some sort of clear indication that it can re-sign Stoudemire, who has the right to become a free agent on July 1, 2010, trading him remains complicated. But Kerr also acknowledged at a news conference in Phoenix last week for Frye's signing that an extension for Stoudemire won't be considered until team officials can see Stoudemire play because "the eye situation was more serious than what we first thought."