Steve Nash Charity Classic (game report)

[Here it is - SueB's much-anticipated report from the front lines at Steve Nash's Charity Classic. Thanks, SueB, for taking time to share with us what it was like to be there. -TexSUN]

I wasn't anticipating being able to get on the internet today, but a wireless connection suddenly appeared, so I'll take advantage to post what I can about the game. Later, I'll add in anything else I remember as well as the parts about seeing Nash, Raja and others in our hotel lobby, riding the elevator with Sam Cassell, and our autograph-seeking experience. But for now, just the game ...

The players were divided into two teams:

East - Ira Newble, Fred Jones, Dan Dickau, Drew Gooden, Jackson Vroman, Raymond Felton, and DJ Strawberry
West - Steve Nash, Sam Cassell, Felipe Lopez, Samuel Dalembert, Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa, and Alando Tucker

So no Marcus Banks after all, but it was great to see Alando and DJ there. I guess they needed to balance the teams out position-wise, so that's probably why DJ played for the East. Unfortunately, they announced just prior to the game that Raja would not be playing (just saw in this article that he tweaked a hammy playing pickup soccer with Barbosa!). That was disappointing. At some point in the second half, I also noticed that Felipe Lopez was not playing anymore. This meant the West was down to just five players (3 of them Suns) for most if not all of the second half.

The game may have just been for show, but it was great fun to watch. There wasn't too much in the way of defense, but there was definitely some - I was surprised to see Dalembert start the game with a couple of blocks and a foul early on. But later, with Lopez out and no other big man on the floor for the West, Gooden started to have his way a little bit more. Dan Dickau seemed to take the game as a challenge to perhaps "outdo" Nash and led the East in scoring (they didn't announce final scoring tallies, but at some point in the 4th quarter they mentioned he had 35 points). Sam Cassell was great - a true show-man, and he was shooting very well. I think he led the West in scoring although Barbosa was up there as well.

Which brings me to the main point of interest - how the Suns' players did. Barbosa showed no signs of being slowed by his elbow surgery. He was as much of a blur as ever and scored a bundle of buckets on layups on feeds from Nash. LB had a couple of 3-pointers but missed many more, bringing to mind his nightmarish shooting against the Spurs. Nash wasn't shooting that well either, but he predictably ended up with something like 20 assists. One problem was the lack of subs on his team. And also, he was having to switch gears because he was involved in many of the activities taking place at every timeout (see below). It was great to see that Alando Tucker seemed to feel right at home. He ran the court well and was also the beneficiary of many Nash assists. He had one especially impressive windmill slam in the second quarter. I really hope he gets significant minutes this season. In the fourth quarter, when players were taking it more seriously (the losers of the final quarter had to do 25 pushups at center court), Tucker had a couple of clutch baskets, including a 3-pointer, as the West scrambled to come back. It wasn't quite enough,  and with no subs, they ran out of gas and lost the quarter by 3. The West HAD won the first three quarters by 10 or 12 points, so the total score would've been in their favor.

I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention to DJ Strawberry on the East team. He didn't play as much because they had a couple of subs, but he also had an impressive slam dunk or two. He struggled to defend Leandro at times, and on offense, he had a couple of good one-on-one showdowns vs Alando. His most memorable play was when he caught up with Nash on a fast break in the first half and made a clean steal from behind. I'm not sure how much Nash liked that! He looked pretty dejected and took himself out of the game at that point. If DJ doesn't make the squad, remember that play! ;)

To enhance the quality of the show, each timeout was approximately the length of a mini-halftime show. The Gorilla was there and fired his T-shirt bazooka and held "mascot boot camp" for an array of hapless local mascots. My 8-year-old daughter enjoyed that part. As mentioned above, Nash was involved in a lot of the breaks, answering interview questions from cancer kids, helping a kid answer conservation-related trivia questions, and playing a game of "M-V-P" (think "H-O-R-S-E") with a 40-something rounding-in-the-middle fellow who'd entered for a chance to play in this contest back in April. This guy turned out to be quite the dead-eye, and Nash actually lost (I told you his shot was off). Now this guy can brag about the accomplishment for the rest of his life. During one timeout, Nash drew one of the largest cheers of the night when he announced that the Suns and Sonics would be playing an exhibition game in Vancouver on October 26.

More later ...