Nash reaches 1,000-game plateau

Steve Nash, who played in his 1,000th career NBA game Sunday night, continues to play at an All-Star level. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

PHOENIX — When Steve Nash stepped foot on the hardwood during the Suns’ victory over the Hornets Sunday night in Phoenix, the 36-year-old became the 10th active player to reach 1,000 career regular season games. Nash joined an elite group including names like Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett, among others.

But the most impressive thing about Nash is not the fact that he reached the 1,000 game plateau, because with his health regimen and skill set that was to be expected. It is the fact that Nash is currently playing the best basketball of his 13-year career, leaving teammates and coaches marveling at the man who has withstood the test of time.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but I think that to play at the level that he’s playing at right now even in his 1,000th game is unbelievable,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “I think it just speaks volumes about the conditioning that he has and the way he keeps himself in shape and what he does.”

“It says a lot for longevity to play 1,000 games,” added Amare Stoudemire. “He’s been blessed to stay healthy his whole career. That’s something every player wants to achieve. Hopefully I can follow his lead.”

At age 36 MVSteve leads the league in assists (11.2), is second amongst point guards in shooting percentage (50.7), eighth amongst point guards in three-point percentage (41.6) , first in the NBA in free-throw percentage (94.0) and first amongst point guards in double-doubles (39).

His 11.2 assists are his highest since the 2006-2007 season (11.6) and the second highest of his career. Nash’s 16.9 points per game is also his highest since 2006-2007. His numbers speak for themselves, and ESPN’s John Hollinger even dubbed him the best shooter of all time.

Whether or not Nash is the best shooter of all time is still up for debate, but his efficiency for his age certainly isn’t. Just take a look at his numbers at age 36 compared to some of the other great point guards around his age: Oscar Robertson at 35 (12.9 points and 6.5 assists), Isiah Thomas at 32 (14.8 points and 6.9 assists), Magic Johnson at 36 (14.6 points and 6.9 assists), John Stockton at 36 (11.1 points and 7.5 assists), Jason Kidd at 36 (10.2 points and 9.3 assists) and Bob Cousy at 34 (13.2 points and 6.8 assists). Just to name a few.

Nash has outperformed some of the best point guards in NBA history, and has undoubtedly earned the right to be in the same conversation as the Stockton’s and Magic’s. He has now played 31,226 minutes of basketball at the highest level in the world, but consider that Nash played over half of those minutes in one of the most high-octane offenses in NBA history.

“Those 480 or 500 games he’s played here or whatever it is, it’s probably more like 650 with the pace that we’ve played the last six years,” Gentry said. “The things that he’s done for our team and all the plays that we’ve asked him to make, that’s a lot of miles right there.”

Tack on another 102 games and 3,642 minutes because of playoffs and Nash’s longevity becomes that much more impressive.

“Part of me it feels like it just means I’m old,” Nash joked, “but if someone had told me when I was 15, 16, 17 years old that I’d play 1,000 games as a professional basketball player I’d had probably been really happy.”

Clark assigned to D-League

Suns GM Steve Kerr announced today that rookie Earl Clark, the No. 14 overall draft pick in last June’s draft, has been assigned to the NBA Developmental League’s Iowa Energy. Clark has underachieved in limited time this season, as he’s averaged 2.7 points and 1.1 rebounds in 45 appearances. He’s scored in double figures three times this season, including a career-high 14 points against Minnesota in November.

Clark hasn’t played double-digit minutes since Jan. 28 and has been since been summoned mainly for mop-up duty by head coach Alvin Gentry. The Energy should offer Clark an opportunity to play competitive basketball and improve his game heading into next season. He will make his Energy debut on Wednesday.

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