Feeling Bad for Steve Nash

It felt like this could have been the year for Steve Nash. Everything was going his way. After multiple pundits predicted the Suns would miss out on the playoffs this season (I picked them to finish eighth), the Suns fought back in a rather Suns like style to prove those experts wrong. They made the playoffs, convincingly, and played some of the best offensive basketball that the world has ever seen during the regular season.

Phoenix finished the regular season with a 54-28 record, good enough for third place in one of the most competitive conferences ever. In the first round of the playoffs, they struggled with a Portland team that could not have a more contrasting play style, but ended up putting them away in six. In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Suns were matched up against the team that own them for the past four years, ending their playoff runs time and time again. During this series is when everybody started to realize the Suns were for real. They handled, I mean completely dominated, their rivals by sweeping them in four games. They shoved the ball down the throats of the Spurs, effectively putting an end to the Tim Duncan era and the Spurs dynasty thanks to a heroic one-eyed performance in the closeout game for Nash.

They could have been contempt with the win over San Antonio. Having such a one-sided victory over your most hated opponent is an accomplishment and they could have accepted that as their prize for a fantastic season. But instead, they kept fighting, even if the defending NBA Champions were in their way, they weren’t going to go down without a fight.

They protected home court with lights out shooting fueled by their tremendous home crowd and were oh so close to stealing that advantage in Game 5. A couple of Nash free throws in the first half go down and the Suns have the lead in this series heading home to close it out. But, after coming back from 18 down, the Suns were rewarded with a crushing loss at the buzzer with the most unlikely of heroes hitting the shot. And in Game 6, again this Suns’ squad fought back from a 17-point deficit but this time, the heroic daggers would come from the one who is expected to hit those shots. With two fading jumpshots from the right wing that could not have been defended any better by Grant Hill or Channing Frye, Kobe Bryant put a dagger into the heart of the Suns, killing not only their season but also Steve Nash’s last legitimate shot at an NBA title.

After the game, Nash was in tears as he hugged his coach. Everything he had worked for, all of the obstacles he had to overcome (race, coaching changes, nagging back injuries), gone in an instant thanks to Bryant. After spending 13 years perfecting his fadeaway rainbow jump shot and after creating Amare Stoudemire’s resume and after turning a bunch of nobodies like Channing Frye and Jared Dudley into three-point specialists and after having Shaq steal his reality TV show idea, Nash will likely remain the NBA’s longest tenured player never to play in the NBA Finals.

And none of the blame can be placed on him. He did whatever he was asked to do in this series. He adjusted to whatever the defense was throwing at him and made them pay for giving him the chance to use one of his abundant abilities. When the Lakers took away his scoring, he facilitated like no other. 13 assists in game, 15 in game 2, 15 in game 3, and eight in game 4. When the Lakers switched on the pick and roll and shadowed Amare back from the high post into the paint, Nash took over with his scoring. He drove to the basket and made impossible fadeaways from mid-range with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum all getting a hand up, helplessly, mind you. Shots so tough that they are almost on par with the crazy stuff Kobe does, and to be even be considered with that man is an honor. 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting in game 5 and 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting in game 6.

Maybe Nash could have done more in the closeout game, but he didn’t have any control over that. He did everything he could during his 30 minutes. During the fourth quarter, Nash sat on the bench while a semi-hot Goran Dragic ran the offense (he wasn’t hitting from three, he just blew by his defender twice in the first two minutes). He should have gone in sooner but he didn’t, thus he couldn’t orchestrate the comeback with eight minutes to go. He checked in with three minutes left, which, unfortunately for Nash, is when Kobe is at his best.

Its hard to stomach for Nash. Again, this was his best shot at reaching the Finals and his team, though far inferior to the Lakers talent wise, almost scrapped their way to a title. But now, Nash himself is aging, Amare may leave, Channing Frye may return to normal next season, and 37-year old Grant Hill may not be able to play like 27-year old Grant Hill anymore. This was the first and only real shot that Nash had a chance at making the Finals as the number one option on a title team and he came up short. He’s not to blame and neither are his teammates. Their camaraderie is something to envy. Just credit the Lakers for taking care of business.

And spare the idea that Amare was the #1 option on this team. Though a tremendous talent, which is something I will address soon, Nash created him. That pick and roll made Stoudemire into what he is today. If he leaves Nash for a team without a playmaker even half as good as Steve, don’t be shocked if Amare turns out to be a little overrated.

Nash could still play second fiddle on another team at some point in order to reach the Finals. It wouldn’t matter to him if he was the leader or not, so long as he got there. So long as he reached what he’s been working towards for over a decade. But his recent contract extension makes that situation unlikely. He’s 36-years old right now and he’s signed until the 2012 off-season. Unless Steve Kerr did him a favor by trading him (something I can’t see Nash asking for or Kerr granting him) or buying him out, that’s not likely.

Maybe a big time free agent comes and takes Amare’s place if he goes. Perhaps Dirk Nowtizki comes to town to partner up with his long time pal Nash in an attempt to go for their first respective ring. But that’s a long shot, and even if Amare stays, the Suns aren’t likely to do what they did this season again.

But hey, they’ve been doubted before, and we know how they responded to that. Third place in the the toughest conference maybe ever, gritty win over Portland, shellacking of the hated Spurs, and, unfortunately, a date with the Lakers, which they made seem much more like dinner and a movie rather than just a walk in the park. So there’s a chance they get there again.

But for me, this was their best shot. This was his best shot. And the reality that none of us will see a fadeaway 18-footer with a seven footer contesting the shot, or a scoop lay-up as he drives by two defenders, or the combing of his hair each time he back trots down the floor, or a picture perfect pocket pass to the roll man on the pick and roll from Nash in a Finals setting has got me kind of sad.

And you should feel the same way.

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Author: (2422 Articles)

Mark is an 18-year old sports fanatic that founded this website back in October of 2008. He is the lead contributor for this site and a credentialed member of the media for several sports leagues and organizations. Mark's main focus is the NBA, though he also covers MLB, NFL, and International events like the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. Follow Mark on Twitter: @Mark_Travis

6 comments to Feeling Bad for Steve Nash

  • Bigern

    congratulations to the Suns for a great and entertaining series. But please stop whining about the great talent difference, "Its hard to stomach for Nash. Again, this was his best shot at reaching the Finals and his team, though far inferior to the Lakers talent wise, almost scrapped their way to a title."

    The Suns have 2 perennial all-stars, and the Lakers have 1 perennial, plus 1 sometimes all-star. Stop playing the poor, pitiful, underdog roll. The rest of the players on both teams are rated a toss-up in talent.

    Most Suns fans didn't give the Lakers any slack in 2006 & 2007 when they were starting Kwame and Smush and Walton. The Suns still had their all-stars.

    • Its the personalities that makes the difference. Suns fans didn't give the Lakers any love because hey, I'll admit it, Kobe isn't the most likeable guy in the world. Plus, he'd been to the Finals four times at that point. And then you throw in age and you have a 36-year old Nash who may very well be the best shooter ever and he's not even going to get a shot to play for a title.

      And come on, there is a huge talent differential. Kobe Bryant is the most talented player ever, Pau Gasol is the most talented big man in the game, Andrew Bynum is dripping with talent/potential as a 22 year old, Lamar Odom is the most talented/versatile sixth man in the league, and Ron-Ron is still a talented defensive player.

      Phoenix has Nash and Amare, and most of Amare's abilities are based on his athleticism and most of his points come off of plays Nash creates. Stoudemire is not an all-star simply because he is constantly voted onto to the team, that's all on the fans.

  • DrewPauKobe

    Or not. Nash doesn't deserve anything he can't earn. He's at best a 2nd best player on a Champ. And he hasn't even been to a Finals, so it's hard to give that much credit.

    In fact, Nash is greatly overrated and shold be happy he's gotten as much love and attention as he's had over the years. He's not even the best PG in the playoffs, Rondo is.

    Steve Nash had no legitimate shot at a title this year, they were lucky to get as far as they did. If they had gotten past the Lakers, the Celts would have demolished them in historic fashion.

    • No, he doesn't deserve a trip to the Finals because he didn't earn it by winning the Western Conference Finals. But did Adam Morrison earn a trip to the Finals? Did DJ Mbenga? Did Adonal Foyle? There are hundreds of players that have no business getting a title ring, much less a chance to play for one. Nash has worked for everything and its sad to see him miss out on the opportunity.

      How would you feel if the flip was switched and Kobe was 37 this year without a ring? You already know he is the hardest working man on the planet, but would you say he didn't deserve a trip to the Finals after the career he had?

      Rondo is not better than Steve Nash. I mean, by simply watching Games 5 and 6, you could see why Nash is far superior. Rondo can't even make a free throw and Nash is throwing up fadeaway 20-footers with a seven footers hand in his face. The guy shot 65% in the final two games and most of his shots were jumpers.

      I know you are a Lakers fan, but really look back at that series and you'll realize that Phoenix had a chance to win this series. They were about to go to overtime in LA if it weren't for a lucky Ron Artest game-winner, and they had all the momentum going into the final period. In Game 6, once again the Suns had battled back from a 17-point deficit and they were three points away if it weren't for otherworldly activities from Kobe. They had a shot.

      • Carleone

        Who says the Suns would have won in OT? Yes the Suns had momentum, but didn't they also have the momentum going in the 4th Quarter of game 6 in PHX. Who's to say Kobe wouldn't have destroyed them in OT of Game 5 at Staples Center.

        I know your'e a Suns fan, but really look back at this series… Kobe destroyed them in every game… in multiple ways. Nobody felt sorry for Kobe with Kwame and Smush and I dont feel sorry for Nash now… Champions rise above hype… the smoke has cleared… the Sun has set!

        • There was a 50% chance that either team would have won the game. Phoenix was gifted momentum by Sasha Vujacic in Game 6 after his incident with Dragic. They had a good chance at winning either game.

          I've never been called a Suns fan before. That's actually kind of shocking to me.

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