(USA TODAY) - The Los Angeles Lakers made a significant move that should keep them a contender in the NBA's Western Conference.
On Wednesday, they reached an agreement to acquire point guard and two-time MVP Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade deal that will send four future draft picks and $3 million in cash to the Suns.
Teams cannot officially sign or trade free agents until July 11, but Nash will receive a three-year, $27 million made possible by the trade exception gained when the Lakers traded forward Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks last season.
The Suns will receive first-round picks in 2013 and 2015 and second-round picks in 2013 and 2014 plus $3 million in cash from the Lakers.
"This is what I call a family values contract," Nash's agent Bill Duffy told USA TODAY Sports. "He was seriously considering retiring so he could remain close to his children. We had to twist his arm to have an open mind. He didn't want to be away from his children, and this allows him to be in a competitive situation, and even though it's a rival, he wanted Phoenix to get some value back. It's a win-win."
Nash has three children, but is divorced from their mother, who lives in the Phoenix area. Nash and his ex-wife have twin daughters, Lola and Bella, who are 7 years old, and a son, Matteo, who will turn two in November.
Phoenix is a one-hour flight from Los Angeles, making it easy for Nash to travel between the two cities.
The deal keeps the Lakers relevant in the West and allows Lakers guard Kobe Bryant to have a legitimate chance at a sixth NBA championship. Nash is seeking his first title. Los Angeles lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Nash, 38, finished second in the league assists per game at 10.7 and averaged 12.5 points last season.
With Nash at point guard, Bryant at shooting guard and big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the low post, the Lakers have a strong foursome to build around. However, the Lakers may still have an interest in Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
After Deron Williams agreed to a five-year, $98 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Nash was the next sough-after point guard. The Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks made serious pushes to acquire Nash.
It was unusual for the Suns to trade an eight-time All-Star and the face of the franchise since 2004-05, but instead of losing him to the Raptors for nothing in free agency or to the Knicks in a deal the Suns weren't thrilled with, they agreed to the deal.
Nash issued this statement Wednesday night through Duffy:
"For the last 8 seasons I've been blessed to play for a team and a city that has embraced me and that I have come to call home. This is a tough business and the only thing constant in life is change.
"After talking with (owner) Robert (Sarver) and (president of basketball operations) Lon (Babby) we've agreed that it's time for both of us to move in new directions. I approached them and asked if they would be willing to do a sign and trade deal with L.A. because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family.
"They were very apprehensive and didn't want to do it. Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better.
"I couldn't be more grateful to the organization and Robert in particular. I know how hard this was for him and that fact that he was able to help me and my family in this way ... it means a lot and says a lot about his character. I will never forget this gesture. Above and beyond.
"The Phoenix Suns are an amazing organization and fans should be excited about their future. I hope the Suns win a championship some day soon for all the amazing fans and wonderful people in the organization."