Last season and early this season Steve Nash - 36 as of today - talked often about the need for consistency and expressed his frustration at the frequency of trades that the Suns have made.
With all the current trade talk going on, I asked Nash how he felt about the potential of another big mid-season deal. He initially responded by saying that it was out of their control and the team just needed to remained focused but he did go on to talk about his desire to see the current group finish out the season.
"I think we've shown that we're a good team and I think we've shown glimpses that we can be a really good team and it would be nice to continue to work at it together," said Nash.
The team presented Nash a birthday cake (hazelnut from Tammie Coe - who I can personally recommend quite highly). Nash of course, was having no cake but said that plenty of his teammates would be willing to break their diets to help out. His twin girls were at practice as well and Steve said he would in fact be a hypocrite and let his kids eat cake.
The entire team sang happy birthday to him with no dog pile followed by wrapping the birthday boy in tape as happened to Antoine Wright recently in Toronto. Somehow, I just can't imagine the Suns tackling Steve Nash and binding his arms and legs in tape.
More Ball Movement => Less Wear on Nash => Fewer Turnovers => Better Defense => More Winning
Coach Gentry talked about installing more ball movement in the offense which has helped the "standing around" and has also both reduced turnovers and taken some of the pressure off of Nash to create everything.
"Our ball movement has gotten better and that's cut down on our turnovers some," said Gentry who went on to say, "We just felt like we were wearing Steve down. He had the ball all the time and he was making all the plays and we had to do something to try to relieve the pressure from Steve a little bit. One of the things we looked at was having more ball movement and more people movement but making sure he had the ball at the end of the shot clock and still making plays. It's really worked out good for us."
The Suns have averaged 13.6 turnovers over the last five games which is down from 15 per game for the season.
Gentry gave credit to Assistant Coach Igor Kokoskov for recommending some of the new offensive sets which he said is borrowed from his time with the Clippers. See, not everything that comes from the Clippers is bad.
The movement has also helped Jason, Grant and Jared get the ball in better position to slash and score and yet is still designed to end up back in Nash's hands once the shot clock gets under 10 sec if nothing opens up. That leaves Nash "fresher" to make a play if needed.
Gentry also credited Nash for attacking more decisively when teams switch pick and rolls. The bigs are rolling quickly to the post to take advantage of the mismatch and/or Nash is shooting quickly.
- Lots of talk about Nash turning 36. He agreed that it's pretty old by NBA standards and 5 or 8 years ago he would have guessed he would have been done by now. He says he feels great. Can't argue with that.
- As far as the big break coming up (1 game in 10 days), Nash said you just play the schedule. If there's a bunch of games you try to get on a roll and win. If there's a break you try and use the time to recharge. That's the wisdom that only comes from being...mature
- Nash says you have to focus on the process and not outcome when asked about playoff seeding, home court, etc.
- Difference between now (winning) and then (losing) is playing hard and not over-thinking things,"Instead of over analyzing we've been going out there and being aggressive and trying to make up for our mistakes with intensity instead of always trying to do the right thing."
- Nash said the Suns can be adequate defensively by being smart, attentive, early which comes form being mentally focused
- "Our depth is important. We don't have the most talented team but we have good depth and we have to make that a characteristic of our success," said Nash.
- Gentry said that Nash is having his best year as a Suns. His offensive efficiency is better. He knows when to score and when to distribute.
- Gentry said that the Suns played good basketball during the previous road trip that the Suns went 0-4 except for a some key stretches. On this last 4-0 trip the Suns didn't have those poor stretches.
- Robin and Frye are combining for 20-25 points and 8 to 12 rebounds from the center position which is great and having both gives the Suns two very different looks
- Amare is playing better because he wasn't getting as many questions about trades. Frankly, I don't see it. Amare wasn't asked all that often about trades and on a few occasions quickly shut down talk when asked.
- "Sometimes we have a tendency to forget that everyone has feelings. No one wants to read about themself getting traded or should they trade you, should they not," said Gentry.
- Gentry is convinced that Nash could average 25 ppg while still shooting 50%/40%/90% and if the Suns had a better record they would be talking about Nash for his 3rd MVP.
- Suns number one goal was to make the playoffs. The West will still be crazy right up until the end. Can't think to far ahead.
- Robin has gotten Suns to great start with offensive put-backs and freed up Amare for open jump shots.
- Gentry was pleased with defensive improvements but still have issues with middle-drives.
- The Suns are off tomorrow and will practice Tuesday.