Steve Nash will make his first to Phoenix as a member of the Lakers on Wednesday. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/GettyImages )
The Lakers' longest trip of the season starts with a homecoming for Steve Nash.
Parades and speeches aren't on the agenda Wednesday night in Phoenix, though a few cheers might be.
"It couldn't be anything but great," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said of the reception he expected Nash to receive inside US Airways Center when the veteran point guard returns to the place where he spent eight memorable seasons with the Suns, including four under D'Antoni.
Nash didn't seem quite as sure about a warm greeting. Fans probably haven't forgotten that he nudged team management to accept a trade with the Lakers in July so that he could remain close to his children who live in Phoenix.
Then again …
"A lot of fans asked me to ask for a trade for two years [before leaving], so you get a mixed bag," said Nash, who was the NBA's most valuable player with the Suns in 2005 and '06. "But it was a great eight years for me there and I think the fans have been overwhelmingly supportive."
The Suns reached the Western Conference finals three times with Nash as their dynamic playmaker, losing to the Lakers in six games in 2010. They failed to make the playoffs during Nash's final two seasons in the desert even though he continued to thrive, leading the NBA in assists.
"He was the reason why a lot of people got paid and a lot of people were happy," said Lakers forward Earl Clark, who played with Nash in Phoenix for parts of two seasons. "He won us a lot of games."
If Clark triggers indifference in his first game as a Laker in Phoenix, it won't be anything he hasn't previously experienced.
He was largely an afterthought with the team that drafted him 14th overall in 2009, particularly after general manager Steve Kerr left the Suns in the summer of 2010.
Clark played sparingly in nine games the next season before being traded to Orlando.
Suns fans who haven't followed the Lakers closely might be surprised to hear him introduced as part of the starting lineup before Wednesday's game.
Clark's nine starts this season are nine more than he made in 60 games with Phoenix.
"It's just motivation going in that arena," Clark said. "I spent so many long nights there shooting, just praying to get in and just praying to just stay there because when you're young you don't want to get traded, you don't want to hear people say it didn't work out, you wasted a draft pick.
"I'm just going to go in there and continue what I've been doing, bring energy and try to help my team win."