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