PHOENIX (AP) — No one could say for certain that this was Steve Nash's final game in a Phoenix uniform, but the Suns' fans certainly sensed it was.
As a meaningless 110-106 loss to the depleted San Antonio Spurs wound down on Wednesday night, the crowd stood and chanted "We want Nash" over and over.
First it was just a few fans. Then it spread through the whole building.
Finally, coach Alvin Gentry sent the 38-year-old point guard back onto the court for a few plays before Nash left to rousing cheers.
"It was obviously amazing to get that type of reception and support," Nash said. "It's very special because it's not something I asked for or imagined to get that type of spontaneous reaction. It means it's authentic, the relationship that I thought we had."
Nash, a free agent at the end of the season after eight years with the Suns, said he will take time to explore his options.
"I'm in no rush," he said. "I think it's important to take my time and just gain some perspective on what's happened in my career and what the future may hold. It's just a lot of speculation at this point."
Gentry said he put Nash back in the game to get the ovation he deserved.
"He was a guy that made guys better," said Gentry, who was with the Suns for all eight of Nash's seasons, either as an assistant or head coach. "It was fun to watch him play and to be with him for eight years, and what he has accomplished here, and what he has done for this franchise and for my coaching career, is priceless."
Patty Mills scored 27 points and Tiago Splitter had 26 in San Antonio's ninth win in a row.
The Spurs sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — as well as coach Gregg Popovich — home earlier in the day. The four will also miss San Antonio's regular-season finale at Golden State on Thursday night.
"It's one of those funny situations, end of the season and resting guys," Mills said. "As crazy as it is, it does make a lot of sense. I thought for the main guys to go back and recharge the batteries before the playoffs, that's a chance to give the other guys a great opportunity."
The Spurs, already guaranteed the No. 1 playoff spot in the Western Conference, remain tied with Chicago for the best record in the NBA with one game to play.