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Friday, July 27, 2007

Steve Nash: "The Only Window That Exists is This Year"

Steve Nash told ESPN.com's LZ Granderson that he does not worry about Phoenix' window of opportunity to win a championship with the Suns' current nucleus: "The only window that exists is this year," explained the two-time NBA MVP. On the other hand, he is not concerned that his career will be ending any time soon, declaring, "I feel great. I feel better than I did when I was 25."

Some fans feel like the Suns-Spurs playoff series was tainted by the game five suspensions that were issued to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw and that feeling has no doubt intensified with the knowledge that disgraced referee Tim Donaghy officiated game three of that series, even though it is not yet known if Donaghy did anything wrong in that contest. Although Nash did his share of whining in the heat of the moment during the series, to his credit he has now stepped back from that kind of thinking for the most part, telling Granderson, "I'm always self critical. I always look at myself and feel like I could have played better and done more, no matter what we faced--and a fantastic team, too." The phrasing is a bit awkward, but Nash refrained from elaborating about "what we faced."

When Granderson asked Nash what the Suns need to do to "get over the hump" in 2007-08, Nash replied, "I think this team could have won a championship this year. I'm not going to blame it on the suspensions. We could have been mentally tougher, we could have done things better, played a little bit better and we could have beat San Antonio." As the leader of his team, that should always be the attitude that Nash expresses and conveys. Regardless of what he thinks about certain situations, in the heat of battle he cannot allow his team to lose focus from the task at hand. One of the stages in the evolution of the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Chicago Bulls teams from contender to champion was that they stopped allowing themselves to be distracted by physical play and by how games were officiated. Coach Phil Jackson told his players to not respond in kind when the Bad Boys Pistons or Pat Riley Knicks went right up to the edge (or over it) in terms of physical play; getting involved in that kind of thing did not play to the Bulls' strengths, which revolved around skillful execution of basketball plays, not proving who was "tougher." Perhaps Stoudemire, Diaw and the rest of the Suns can take that lesson from the 2007 playoffs and apply it in the future.

Would Nash already have a championship ring by now if he and Dirk Nowitzki were still teammates? "I think so," replied Nash. "Yeah. If we still played together I think that we could have won a title one of the last three years. We were both still growing as players, getting better every season and I think that in some ways being apart has raised our games but (if we had stayed together) we would have continued to grow individually and collectively." That would seem to be a shot at Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who elected not to re-sign Nash, but when asked point blank if Cuban blew it, Nash kiddingly said yes before saying that he respects Cuban's decision and pointing out that Dallas has a very strong team that made it to the 2006 Finals and had the best regular season record in the NBA in 2007. Naturally, Nash believes that Dallas would have been even better if Cuban had retained his services.

This is an important season for Nash. Every other multiple MVP winner in NBA history except for Karl Malone won at least one championship. Nash is not an overwhelming player statistically; no statistical rating system that I know of would have selected him as an MVP either of the seasons that he won the award. His calling card is "making other players better" but that will be a strange thing to be known for if he never even once makes an appearance in the NBA Finals despite playing on some very talented teams that have won a lot of regular season games. With the Spurs and Mavericks still fully stocked and teams like the Jazz and Rockets on the rise, it will not be easy for Nash and the Suns to emerge from the West.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:43 AM



At Friday, July 27, 2007 6:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With FBI betting on Spurs, there no fair opportunity.

At Friday, July 27, 2007 3:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I seriously doubt that the FBI was betting on anybody. So far, no information has been released about which games Donaghy allegedly bet on and/or which games he allegedly manipulated. The Spurs have been quite capable of handling the Suns for the past several seasons.

At Wednesday, August 01, 2007 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Jey said...


At Thursday, August 02, 2007 3:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Welcome to 20 Second Timeout.

In order to effectively critique the officiating in a given game, you can't just look at the total number of fouls called or how many fouls each referee whistled. You have to break down each play and determine whether or not a foul or violation happened. If one team commits more fouls or violations than another, then that team should get called for more fouls or violations.

Also, your description of the defensive three seconds rule is imprecise. The NBA used to have an illegal defense rule that was very difficult to explain to the average viewer/fan but that rule has now been replaced by a defensive three seconds rule that stipulates that a player cannot be in the paint for more than three seconds unless he is "closely guarding" an opposing player (either his own man or double-teaming the man with the ball). You can stand in the paint for 2.9 seconds, "cleanse yourself" by taking both feet out of the paint and then go back in the paint. You can also "cleanse yourself" by getting within arm's length of a cutter or other offensive player. So, for instance, if Amare is on the left block, Tim Duncan can stand in the paint all day, as long he is "closely guarding" Amare (i.e., within arm's length). If Amare leaves the block and goes outside, then Duncan must vacate the paint every three seconds.

I gather that this post did not go over real big in Suns' country but all I am saying is that, regardless of what Nash thinks about the officiating, the leaving the bench rule or anything else, it is his responsibility to not make any excuses and to infuse his team with the confidence and belief that they can win. In game six of the 1980 NBA Finals, the Lakers were without that year's MVP, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but they won a road game against Philly with rookie Magic Johnson having 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. The Bulls could have easily used Michael Jordan's flu as an excuse but he didn't, so they didn't and the Bulls beat Utah. The road to a championship is rarely smooth but the great teams overcome obstacles to win and if Phoenix is ever to win a title then the Suns will have to do the same thing. When the Cavs did not like a call at the end of one of their games, Coach Brown and LeBron both said simply, "We are a no excuse team." That is the approach that the Suns should take. Look, some people are going to believe that the Suns were "robbed" and some aren't, no matter what anyone says, but the coaches and players have to be above all of that and focus on being productive during the games.

So much has been made of certain calls and no-calls and the Amare-Diaw suspensions but no one talks about how Nash was repeatedly allowed to come on to the court gushing blood, which should have never happened. Yes, he had to sit out some time but he never should have been allowed back on the court until all of the bleeding was stopped and he was wearing a clean bandage. The Spurs could have said that the referees were showing favoritism to the Suns but in fact Popovich was urging the referees to let Nash play. Whether or not Popovich really wanted Nash on the court, he was not going to allow that to distract his team from executing their game plan. Also, Nash got that injury by leaning in and trying to steal the ball from Parker. It was an accidental head butt but no one seemed that concerned when it appeared that Parker--an important player for the Spurs who later won the Finals MVP--had taken the brunt of the blow but all of a sudden when Nash is gushing blood then the announcers are talking about how terrible it is for the game to end this way. Wouldn't it have been terrible if Parker had a concussion and could not have finished the game for the Spurs? If that had happened, though, I can guarantee you that win or lose the Spurs would not have used it as an excuse.


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