Over the past five seasons I, with many of you, have had the absolute pleasure of watching Steve Nash run the point for one of the best offensive teams in the history of the NBA. I've seen him bury teams with last second heroics (yeah, you remember the game against the Nets), carve up teams with his penetration and passing and carry this Suns organization to great heights on his weakened back.
I've witnessed his two MVP seasons and although I've heard all of the naysayers I have to say that seeing every game of those two seasons there is no doubt that he was the most valuable player in the league. In fact, one of the biggest issues for the Suns has always been that they haven't been able to get him rest because the Suns have been unable to sustain anything when he's on the bench. Don't get me wrong, there have been GAMES where the bench did their job and kept it going but for the most part when Nash went to the bench every Suns fan would hold his/her breath knowing that his break would be cut short out of necessity. In fewer words, Steve Nash has been awesome.
All this being said, I don't think I've ever fully appreciated the total awesomeness that is Steve Nash. Yes I am a long time fan of his defensive instincts...wait...did I just say defense? Yes. Nash has consistently been one of the best in the league at drawing charges on PGs drives and anyone who plays and knows the game knows how difficult this really is. Is his defense lacking? Of course. But would we have such an issue with it if he had somebody behind him willing and able to protect the rim at all costs? Honestly, I don't know. I've always enjoyed watching him shoot crazy percentages from everywhere on the court and I don't need to use any adjectives when talking about Steve Nash's passing. However, it wasn't until this past Saturday that my eyes were truly opened to just how great Stevie Wonder/Nashty/The Golden Sun really is.
Saturday started out innocently enough. I woke up around 10 (yes, I enjoy sleeping in on Saturday mornings if I'm not playing ball), played with my little girl a bit and prepared to go to the Suns open scrimmage. Long story short, a friend of mine's wife bought a cat without discussion, felt bad and then bought him season tickets to make up for it. As new season ticket owners we were treated to a free t-shirt and some snacks while we were fed the company line about Clark, Dragic and the Big Fail aka Shaq. Afterwards we were taken down courtside to watch the scrimmage and other Suns entertainment.
Jermaine and I quickly grabbed seats right at the free-throw line of the black team's (Nash, Hill, Amare, Frye, JRich, Griffin and Tucker) basket. Let me start by saying that I have never sat courtside at a game and maybe never will again so this was awesome. As the scrimmage opened you could tell that Nash was just on another level. A lot of the players were joking around, smiling and enjoying themselves but Nash was all business. Even though his team was clearly superior, Nash was not there to put on a show or play to the crowd - Nash was there to win. I don't know if it's his size or his personality or the fact that Nash is Canadian but for some reason people tend to underestimate Nash's competitive drive.
As I sat watching the action I had no idea that I was about to witness basketball perfection. One play...wait, scratch that...one pass in the middle of a play was about to show me all that I knew to be true with Steve Nash and more. It all started with an Amare rebound (yes, he does get rebounds every so often). After grabbing the board Stoudemire quickly outleted the ball to Nash and the break was on. Nash came down full speed ahead of everyone on the black team to the 3-point line directly opposite where I was sitting on the court and threw a pass without more than a quick glance that was headed right for me with only two white jerseys even in the vicinity of the ball. In that moment time slowed like a scene from the Matrix and everything became clear. As I watched the ball heading straight towards me in slow-motion, Grant Hill appeared out of nowhere and pulled the ball out of the air as if he was taking a handoff from a quarterback.
Now, I have absolutely zero idea what Grant Hill did with the ball because I sat there frozen, just watching the spot where Hill materialized trying to fully grasp what I had just witnessed. How Steve Nash knew the exact velocity/placement needed to get the ball to a player that he couldn't have seen more than a sliver of out of the corner of his eye while moving at top speed and dribbling between three defenders is beyond me. I cannot comprehend it...cannot even try to make sense of it. No human being should be able to make that pass under those circumstances and Steve Nash is one of probably four humans alive who can.
There has been a lot of talk here on Planet Orange about whether or not the Suns should have signed Steve to the extension this summer or just decided to go for broke and move away from the Steve Nash era. I'm here to plead with every Suns fan to enjoy and appreciate the fact that we get to watch Steve Nash do what Steve Nash does on a nightly basis. Steve Nash, even in his "advanced" age, is still a top 5 PG (I think he's top 3 but I'm adding two spots to cover my hometown bias) as well as one of the most clutch players/pure shooters in this league and when he is free to do his thing - i.e. doesn't have Shaq sitting on him - Steve Nash is an absolutely incredible player to watch.
As a Suns fan, you have to ask yourself, would you rather watch the team that captured the imagination of every NBA fan with the run n' gun and Steve Nash or the train wreck we all had to witness last year? Would you rather watch a team that probably isn't going to win the title but has a chance to beat any team on any given night or a team in rebuilding mode with a bunch of young guys just learning to play the game who may or may not pan out? Look what happened to the Bulls when they went into full on rebuilding mode or the Lakers when they shipped Shaq - they even had one of the best players on the planet trying to keep them afloat.
Look, don't get it twisted...if a creepy guy with half a face came to my door and told me that with the push of a button the Suns would win the title I would push it before he even finished his disclaimer saying that some stranger would die - I want to see the Suns win it all. However, for me, if winning it all isn't even an option (for the record I'm not saying that it isn't), watching Steve Nash run the most entertaining offense in basketball on a team that truly enjoys playing together for a full season would easily be the next best thing.
Personally, it took seeing a pass up close in a team scrimmage to come to grips with the awesomeness that is Steve Nash...my hope is that the rest of Planet Orange sees and appreciates it, too.