PHOENIX Point guard Steve Nash agreed to a five-year, $65 million deal with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, leaving the Dallas Mavericks to return to the team that drafted him eight years ago.
The deal includes a ''partial guarantee'' for a sixth year, Nash's agent Bill Duffy said.
Nash shook hands on the deal with new owner Robert Sarver and Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo at a meeting in Dallas, Duffy said.
NBA rules prohibit Nash from signing the contract until July 14. Teams were allowed to begin talks with free agents late Wednesday.
Nash averaged 14.5 points, 8.8 assists and three rebounds per game last season, when he also recorded his first career triple-double.
He will give Phoenix an experienced playmaker ahead of young Leandro Barbosa. The move almost certainly removes the Suns from the competition for Los Angeles Lakers free agent Kobe Bryant.
Phoenix is $16.3 million under the NBA salary cap, not counting the Nash deal.
Dallas officials said repeatedly since the season ended that they expected no problem keeping Nash, the spark plug behind their rise from one of the league's worst teams to one of the best. Along the way, the energetic, floppy haired guard became an All-Star and a fan favorite.
''I think it was his intention to stay with the Mavericks,'' Duffy said of the 30-year-old Nash. ''Everything just turned around so quickly.''
''I never dreamed we'd lose Nash, or any other player of his magnitude,'' Mavericks coach Don Nelson said Thursday night in Fort Worth.
''It's not like a trade where you get something back. There is no adjustment here. We lost a big part of our team and we don't have anything to fill it. It's a setback.''
The Suns sent a 12-person contingent to Dallas on Thursday morning, a group that included team president Bryan Colangelo, the Suns' Amare Stoudemire, Suns part-owner Steve Kerr and former player Rex Chapman.
''Phoenix came up to the plate and put together a very significant offer and we accepted it,'' Duffy said. ''The numbers were significant, but it was also the years. It was a five-year deal and that is very significant for someone Steve's age.''
Donnie Nelson, president of the basketball operations for the Mavericks, wouldn't discuss what Dallas offered, but he said the team's counter to Nash wasn't good enough.
''He was either going to retire a Maverick or get a heck of an opportunity to move on and the latter happened, he was never a (trade) chip.''
Duke: Lakers, Krzyzewski discussing coaching vacancy
DURHAM, N.C. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski met with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Thursday and was in ''serious discussions'' with the team about its coaching vacancy.
Krzyzewski, a 57-year-old Hall of Famer, has led the Blue Devils to three national championships in almost a quarter-century at the school.
''Coach K has informed us that the Los Angeles Lakers have contacted him and entered into serious discussions to fill their vacant head coaching position,'' Duke athletic director Joe Alleva said.
Lakers spokesman John Black said Kupchak met with Krzyzewski. ''They talked about our coaching vacancy,'' he said.
Black said the team hasn't made a decision, and was considering several other candidates to replace Phil Jackson.
Alleva said he didn't know if the Krzyzewski and the Lakers were close to a deal.
''I haven't been privy to their conversations,'' he said. ''But obviously, they are a great franchise.''
Duke spokesman Jon Jackson said Krzyzewski was in Durham earlier Thursday. The Lakers declined to say where the discussions were held.
An attempt to reach Krzyzewski by phone was unsuccessful.
By Thursday night, about 100 students and fans gathered at ''Krzyzewskiville'' the grassy plot outside Cameron Indoor Stadium where students camp out to attend Blue Devil basketball games with signs and flags urging the coach to stay.
Duke president Richard Brodhead told The Associated Press he and Alleva had dinner with Krzyzewski on Tuesday, after Brodhead became aware that the coach had talked with the Lakers.
Brodhead said he didn't know if the Lakers offered Krzyzewski the job.
''If he has the offer, he's going to have a big decision before him,'' said Brodhead, who officially took office as Duke's president Thursday, succeeding Nan Keohane.
Brodhead said he and Alleva urged Krzyzewski to finish his career at the school.
''He means more to this place than the record of his victories, impressive though that is,'' Brodhead said. ''He's a real teacher. He teaches character as well as basketball.''
Krzyzewski has a 621-179 record in 24 seasons at Duke, leading the Blue Devils to NCAA championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001. Under Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and 10 conference regular-season titles.
His Duke teams have been ranked No. 1 in 12 different seasons, including each of the last seven years.
''If he decides that he's had a great ride at Duke, but something else calls out to him now, we'd have to understand that,'' Brodhead said. ''In the meantime, you can be sure we'll do all we can to persuade him that Duke and the college game are the right place for him.''
The mother of incoming freshman David McClure, said her son was first informed of the news in a call from assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski on Thursday.
Betty McClure said she spoke with Krzyzewski over the weekend when the family brought the 6-foot-7 swingman to Durham for summer classes, and the coach gave no indication of leaving.
''They said that every year he gets approached by some team or another,'' she said from her home in Ridgefield, Conn. ''And so, how can you really expend a lot of energy being angry or anything until you know what he's going to do?''
David McClure, reached Thursday night, said he had been told by the coaching staff not to comment.
The Lakers announced June 18 three days after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals that Jackson wouldn't return as coach next season. Jackson, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers in June 1999, guided them to championships in his first three seasons.
Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich has been considered the front-runner to succeed Jackson. He met with team owner Jerry Buss and Kupchak last week.
Former Lakers coach Pat Riley, an executive with the Miami Heat, also met with Buss and Kupchak, but issued a statement saying he wasn't a candidate.
Among others mentioned have been Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons, members of Jackson's staff. Kupchak said he planned to interview more than one person and less than 10 for the job and hoped to have a coach in place as soon as possible.
Last month, Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown became the first coach to win titles in both the NBA and NCAA. But Brown is the exception to the general trend of college coaches struggling in the NBA.
Rick Pitino went from two straight appearances in the national title game with Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, before quitting in 2001 and later returning to the college ranks with Louisville.
In 1992, Jerry Tarkanian, whose UNLV team won a national title in 1990, lasted just 20 games before being fired by the San Antonio Spurs with a 9-11 record.
More recently, former college coaches Lon Kruger, John Calipari, Leonard Hamilton and Tim Floyd have struggled during short tenures with the Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets, respectively.
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