NBA

Babby: Suns may not use cap space this summer

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PHOENIX (AP)

The Phoenix Suns will have salary cap ''flexibility'' in the offseason but won't be out spending money just to spend it.

Lon Babby, president of basketball operations, said in a luncheon with Phoenix area reporters Wednesday that there's ''a distinct possibility'' that the team might hold off with any major spending another year if the right situation doesn't come up this summer.

''We worked hard to put ourselves in this position, to have this kind of flexibility, to have a range of opportunities,'' Babby said, ''but I am absolutely determined that we are going to be disciplined in how we approach this because we cannot get ourselves right back in the same spot that we were in by doing bad contracts, not assessing value properly, not making the right choices in terms of personnel.''

Babby also said that both the organization and Steve Nash are open to the possibility of the star point guard's return for a ninth straight season with Phoenix, although that will depend on a number of factors involving Nash's and the team's desires. Nash is a free agent and says he will explore what options he has around the NBA.

''What I would say about it at this very early stage is that every indication we've gotten from Steve is not only is our spirit willing to make this happen but his spirit is willing as well,'' Babby said. ''That doesn't mean it's going to happen. We respect his right to look around. We will work hard with him to find common ground and we'll see where that goes.''

It is not as simple, he said, as Nash saying he wants to come back. There are other issues, such as the amount of a contract and its length.

''We've got to go down a road with him and see if we can find a common path, a path that makes sense for him and then makes sense for us,'' Babby said. ''Everybody here wants Steve Nash to retire as a Phoenix Sun and we're going to work very hard to work with him to see if that can happen, but it's got to be good not only for him but it's got to be good for us, and he understands that.''

Babby is aware of criticism that the Suns erred by not trading Nash this season, thereby getting some value for him rather than see him walk away as a free agent. The Suns' executive, a former sports agent for the likes of Tim Duncan and Grant Hill, said that by not trading him, the team got the benefit of another season at which Nash played at a high level. Left unsaid was the fact that there was no way the Suns would get anything close to high value in such a deal.

Besides, Babby said, ''if he doesn't come back, we're going to have $10 million more of cap space.''

Babby completed his second season as head of basketball operations following the departure of Steve Kerr after the team's surprise run to the Western Conference finals. Phoenix has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and three of the last four.

In other personnel matters, Babby said the 39-year-old Hill's return largely would depend on health issues. He said he couldn't imagine Hill re-signing with anyone but Phoenix. He also said he would be inclined to match any offer to restricted free agent center Robin Lopez.

Babby said the team's biggest need is for a ''dynamic scorer,'' preferably one in the post. That's not an easy find in any year and this is not considered a great season for free agents. Babby said that rather than sign a free agent, the Suns could use some cap money for ''one-sided trades.'' He also said the team needs to do better in the draft. Only two players on the roster, Lopez and rookie Markieff Morris, were drafted by Phoenix, discounting Nash, who was selected by the Suns but traded to Dallas before returning to the desert as a free agent.

Babby said that his experience as an agent has shown him how teams that feel desperate to do something will sign free agents to contracts far too high than would seem logical.

''As the pressure builds to do something, you get teams to make some very bad decisions, and we're not going to do that,'' Babby said. ''I'm not going to sell false hope. We're going to move forward and we're going to build this thing brick by brick.''

Tagged: Suns, Steve Nash, Grant Hill

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