View Full Version : ESPN.com: The Sports Guy's take on Steve Nash

05-23-2005, 05:50 PM
Link (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/cowbell/blog/archive2&num=0)

For whatever reason, I have been getting e-mails from readers saying stuff like, "Boy, Nash is really shoving it in your face this week, huh?" Not sure I understand this one: I'm the same guy who wrote a few years ago that Nash was one of the best 10 point guards of the past 25 years. You won't find a bigger advocate of the point guard position than me heck, I've even written entire columns about it. No matter what happens in the playoffs, the argument was whether Nash was the MVP of the regular season. I don't think he was. In the playoffs? Absolutely, unequivocally, he's been the most dominant player. Which is amazing.

On the surface, Nash's ascension doesn't make sense because NBA players usually peak around 27-28, not when they're 30 years old. His best playoff performance was three years ago, when he averaged a 19-8-4 over eight games (also when I wrote the line: "Mike Bibby made himself a lot of money with the way he abused Steve Nash in the final three games of the Mavs-Kings series" in a 2002 playoff column). In 20 games over 2003, he averaged a 16-7-4. If anything, he showed a penchant to wear down as the playoffs dragged along (especially defensively), like his back/body couldn't handle the rigors of a 100-game season.

So what's changed? Two things:

1. In retrospect, the Mavs weren't the right team for him, and here's why: Nash's greatest skill as a point guard is the way he orchestrates that pick-and-roll. He can turn the corner, dribble into the paint, then find the rolling big man at precisely the right time 99 times out of 100. In Dallas, he was running that play with Nowitzki, someone whose natural inclination is to step backwards so he can shoot an open 3. (You never see Nowitzki roll to the basket because he's clumsy and he doesn't like getting hit.) In Phoenix, Nash is running that play with (and I'm using caps here to emphasize this point) THE GREATEST ROLLER IN THE HISTORY OF PICK-AND-ROLLS: Stoudemire, who grabbed the title from Karl Malone and Shawn Kemp last November. No matter where you throw him the ball, Amare can catch it at full-steam and somehow get to the rim. Plus, Phoenix's 3-point shooters are better than anyone Nash ever played with, and all of them can run the floor with him. And if that's not enough, they stopped calling moving picks this season unless you happen to be a 7-foot-6 guy from China.

In a way, it's almost like "The Perfect Storm" for Nash: perfect supporting cast, perfect partner for his favorite play. That made him relatively unstoppable. And leads to

2. Nash's confidence has swelled to the point that he feels like he's unstoppable. And we watched the fruition of this evolution in the Dallas series, as Jason Terry has been petrified to guard him and Avery Johnson hasn't figured out yet that A.) someone needs to start knocking Nash down, and B.) Darrell Armstrong should be playing 20-25 minutes a game and pestering the living hell out of him. I would need to sit down and really think about this one, but Nash's Game 5 (the 34-12-13, where he controlled every nuance of the game) had to have ranked among the 10 greatest games in the history of the point guard position, right? How can you run a team better than that?

Here's my point: Because I took an anti-Nash stance for the MVP vote, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate what he's doing. If anything, I couldn't be more delighted about it. But extenuating circumstances with NBA stars are more underrated than people realize. For example, Larry Bird never had the chance to play with an athletic big man who attacked the rim (one of the reasons that Lenny Bias' untimely death was so frustrating seriously, how could anyone have stopped that pick-and-roll?). Ditto for Isiah Thomas, who had to tailor his game to accommodate half-court scorers like Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley. Hakeem's entire career passed by without him playing with a single All-Star point guard who could have gotten him easy shots. And so on. Nash has been fantastic, but I guarantee he wakes up every morning thinking, "I can't believe I get to play with these guys today!"


I wasn't happy with yesterday's Steve Nash posting it was too long and I didn't have enough time to tinker with it. Should have waited a day before finishing it. Two points I forgot to mention:

1. During the 2002 season, Jason Kidd had a similar effect on the Nets taught them how to win, made them collectively unselfish, brought the best out of some flawed teammates, even took over games when it mattered. Not only did Kidd have a career year, they went from 26 wins to 52 wins and ended up making the NBA Finals, even though his supporting cast was far inferior to Nash's supporting cast this season. Would you rather play with Stoudemire, Marion, Johnson, Q and Jimmy Jackson, or with K-Mart, Van Horn, Kittles, Todd MacCullough and a young Richard Jefferson? Exactly. Anyway, Kidd finished second in the MVP balloting to Tim Duncan that season, who was a stronger candidate than anyone from this year's crop. It's just that I don't remember the media fawning over Jason Kidd in 2002 like they fawned over Steve Nash in 2005. Draw your own conclusions.

2. I didn't make this point clearly enough: In a normal season, Nash wouldn't have won the MVP. But this was like one of those Oscar years where there isn't one standout picture, so "Shakespeare In Love" ends up winning the award. Every candidate was flawed in some way. And since that was the case, it was easy for some voters to say, "Screw it, I'm voting for the white guy with the floppy hair!"

05-23-2005, 05:53 PM
I was enjoying the article until he brought race back into it..

05-24-2005, 10:36 AM

And by the way, the media was fawning over Jason Kidd the whole freaking year in 2002. Ultimately, however, Duncan was the better candidate and Jason shot below 40% from the floor, which is unacceptable for an MVP.