The popular belief amongst the NBA world was that after last season, Steve Nash was in decline. People thought that Nash had already had his success: two MVPs and a handful of exciting playoff runs with the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks. They thought it was time for him to find a playoff-contending team and try for a ring.
Most people thought the Suns could never be a contender after last season’s debacle. The thought was: Nash couldn’t get the Suns into the playoffs last season and he is getting older, so it is time for a change of scenery.
Well NBA world, you couldn’t have been more wrong.
As a result of the Suns’ recent success (7-1) headlines will soon read, “Steve Nash Returns to NBA Superstardom.” All I can do is laugh at this. My question is, when did he ever leave?
Despite an awful first half of the year last season, Steve Nash still finished in the top three among point guards in assists per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage.
As for questions about Nash’s health, he topped 70 games and 33 minutes played for the ninth straight season. Yes he is 35 years of age, but look at the man’s diet. He keeps himself in unbelievable shape and has shown no signs of slowing down.
He didn’t sustain any major injuries and still put together a solid statistical season, 15.7 and 9.7. If the NBA rounds up, Nash averaged at least 15 and 10 for the fifth straight season last year. His production was nearly the same as the previous couple of years, minus the scoring and a couple of assists.
But it is easy for one to dismiss the absence of Amare Stoudemire along with the chaos that was the Terry Porter experiment. Before the All-Star break Nash averaged a measly 13.8 and 9.8 in Porter’s slow it down and dump it to Shaq offense. The chemistry just wasn’t there under Porter and he couldn’t command any respect from the players.
But when Alvin Gentry took over, Nash posted 18.7 points per game and 9.6 assists per game on 54.8 percent from the field and 47.3 percent from three, leading the style of play that fits his game perfectly.
Those second-half numbers, minus a few assists, are right around where his MVP numbers were:
|2008-09: 2nd half||18.7||9.6||54.8||47.3|
From the MVP years to the second half of last season, Nash actually improved in three of the four statistical categories. And the assists could have very well been higher if Nash had a healthy Amare Stoudemire to hit with helpers on pick and rolls. Nash also averaged 20.7 points per game and 9.3 assists per game during the month of March.
Yes, it is hard to entirely throw out the first half of the season, but it is just as hard to expect a team that had led the NBA in scoring for so many season playing a certain style of basketball to completely drop it and start fresh. Despite the rough first half, Nash’s production, even last year, has been right where it always has been, yet he was basically written off heading into this season.
Now to this season. Nash is producing at an even higher rate than ever before. Yes, it has only been eight games, but Nash is currently averaging 18.3 points and 12.9 assists per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from three.
The assists and three-point percentage are career highs, and the points and field-goal percentage are not far off. But in addition to Nash’s production, the Suns are doing something they haven’t done consistently in almost a year: winning.
The Suns are currently tied for the best record in the NBA and Nash is a huge, if not THE, reason why. How are Channing Frye and Jason Richardson so open for the 44 combined threes that they’ve drilled thus far? Steve Nash.
How is Amare Stoudemire open for the silky smooth 18-footer or the thunderous dunk down the lane? Steve Nash. Why are Phoenix Suns fans and players re-energized and excited about the 2009-2010 season? Steve Nash. Why is Grant Hill back in a Suns uniform instead of stealing a ring in Boston? Steve Nash.
Aside from a small hiccup during the first half of last season, this has always been the case. There is a reason why a Nash-led team has been tops in the NBA in offensive efficiency for the past eight seasons.
Nash has been putting up ridiculous numbers early this season, but for those who are surprised, don’t be. Nash has been doing this kind of thing for the past six or seven seasons.
People put too much stock in last year’s team. It was the season of Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Between the new coach, midseason trade, Shaq Diesel experiment, Stoudemire injury, and midseason coaching change, there was a lot that went on last year.
All things considered, for the Suns to even have been fighting for the playoffs down the stretch was somewhat impressive. But this year’s team is different. Everything that can go right is going right, and the majority of that has to do with MVSteve.
But don’t be surprised with his production, because it has been that way for quite some time. But now that the Suns are winning again, the national attention is back. If Nash keeps up the production and the Suns keep up their winning ways, Nash could be headed for his third MVP.
The only other players to win an MVP at or after the age of 35 are Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, quite the company. So if Nash does make another run for MVP, don’t be surprised, because despite his age this is what Steve Nash does.