Steve Nash, at 38, playing great for mediocre Suns
The Phoenix Suns are a shadow of the frenetic scoring machine
they were a few years ago. Maybe that makes the season Steve Nash
is having all the more impressive.
Not surrounded by an abundance of talent, on a team that stood
12-18 going into Friday night’s game against the Lakers in Los
Angeles, Nash leads the league in assists at 10.7 and is the top
shooter among guards at 56 percent. That’s third overall among
players at any position and would be his career best if it holds up
for the season.
On his 38th birthday, Feb. 7, Nash had 18 points and 11 assist,
including the game-winning layup with 5 seconds to go in a 107-105
win at Milwaukee. For the eighth time in his 16-year NBA career, he
made the All-Star Game roster.
There has been one concession to his age. Coach Alvin Gentry
held him out of Tuesday’s loss at Denver so he wouldn’t have to
play three consecutive nights. The next night he had 22 points and
16 assists but his team faded down the stretch in a home loss to
”People are saying `Hey, you’re playing great for 38,”’ said
Lon Babby, the Suns’ president for basketball operations. ”My
answer to that is `No, he’s just playing great – period.”
Nash is in the final year of his contract, and his future in
Phoenix is an open question.
Babby has said all along that the team has no plans to trade
Nash. Given his age and contract status, the return probably
wouldn’t come close to matching his value to the franchise anyway.
But Babby said he would be obliged to listen when approached.
”You can lock your door, you can pull down the shade, but that
doesn’t mean you can keep people from ringing your door bell,” he
Nash, of course, has been through all this before.
”I’m happy to honor my contract to play for the Suns,” he
said. ”Along with my teammates, I’ll try to make this as positive
and successful a situation as we possibly can. That’s all I should
concern myself with right now. If the Suns decide to trade me, I’ll
take that same attitude where ever I’m sent. But my attitude is to
do the best I can with the Suns and see what happens at the end of
A two-time league MVP, the point guard prides himself on his
physical conditioning. He believes he can play in the NBA for
several more years.
”I feel great,” he said. ”When people ask me, I just say I
can play a couple more years. I could say three more years. Who
knows? Maybe five. I think I could play a long time if I want
Babby says the Suns want him to retire as a member of the
”What I’ve said to him is that he’s earned the right to stay
here as long as he wants provided that he believes in what we’re
doing and believes in the direction that we’re going and is all
in,” Babby said.
Nash is open to coming back.
”I definitely want to see the team improve and try to get us
back in contention,” he said, ”but I definitely would re-sign
with the Suns.”
But the team, with its eye to free agent additions, might not
want to invest as much as Nash believes he is worth.
The Suns would do that, Nash said, ”at their own peril.”
Babby said he believes Nash understands that ”we’re a team in
”Our expectation and goal is to strive to be an elite team and
return to elite status,” he said. ”That’s the catch phrase and
what I really mean by that is the ability to compete at the highest
level. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win a championship but
that’s our aspiration.”
It could be a slow climb, and Nash already acknowledges that
playing for a losing team is a chore.
”Obviously everyone wants to be on a contender,” he said.
”When you’re not it’s not as much fun. At the same time, I have
had a lot of years when I was at the other end of the spectrum,
when I was winning almost every night, contending, going to the
conference finals. What can I say? In some ways, everyone’s going
to go through tough years. I think you’ve got to keep your head
down and work hard and try to turn it around and do the best you
can to overcome it.”
This year’s Suns simply lack the personnel to go against the big
boys of the NBA.
”Look at our roster,” Nash said. ”We don’t have like a go-to
scorer. We don’t have the talent level. We don’t have a max
contract guy, let alone two or three that some teams have. In most
areas, we struggle a little bit. We have good guys. We’ve shown
some glimpses. We’ve just got to find a way to collective find that
little something extra that can get us over the hump.”
Babby insists that changes are coming, but perhaps not as fast
as some would like.
”We’re going to have the ability to spend the money next
summer,” Babby said. ”We’ve got to make sure we spend it wisely
or don’t spend it, keep our powder dry for another day, or use it
for a lopsided trade. I don’t think there’s a quick-term fix here.
We want to build this brick by brick and make sure that we can
build to last.”
And he says having Nash around would ease the process.
”But we also have to be realistic that there’s going to have to
come a time when this franchise is going to have to live without
him, at least on the court,” Babby said. ”My attitude is we ought
to be savoring every day that we have him, not looking past and
into the future when we won’t have him. Obviously we have to
prepare for that day in some fashion, but he can help us get