I’m still trudging my way through Bill Simmons’ epic Book of Basketball (which I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys Simmons’ colloquial style), but his chapter on “The Secret” really makes me think of the Suns of yesteryear.
In this chapter, Simmons learns from Isiah Thomas that “the secret of basketball is not about the basketball.”
He later explains it like this in relation to the Lakers and Celtics of the 1980s:
Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else. They won because their best players sacrificed to make everyone else happy. They won as long as everyone remained on the same page. By that same token, they lost if any of those three factors weren’t in place.
When I read that passage during last spring’s playoffs, I really felt the Suns had a chance. The 2009-10 Suns possessed some talented players sure, but they were so good because they were a team that really seemed to grasp The Secret.
They did truly like each other, know their roles, ignore stats and value winning. Steve Nash has always sacrificed to make everybody happy, and they remained on the same page throughout the playoffs.
The only thing is they ran into a more talented squad with players who also embraced The Secret, led by a coach who could write a book on it he’s won so many titles.
I still believe last year’s Suns validated The Secret to some extent in that they were a team that truly did embrace it, they just didn’t have quite enough talent to defeat the Lakers. But there’s a reason that a squad few thought would be better that seventh or eighth came so close to shocking the world and reaching the Finals.
Simmons also lays out four key pieces for a champion:
1. One great player.
2. One or two elite sidekicks.
3. Top-notch role players and/or character guys who won’t threaten your culture.
4. The need to stay healthy and catch a couple breaks.
This section brings visions of the D’Antoni Suns to my brain. They could check three of these four boxes, yet we all know which one they couldn’t check.
Steve Nash was their unselfish superstar setting the tone and keeping everyone happy. Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion were the elite sidekicks. Guys like Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Kurt Thomas were the top-notch role players and character guys.
But the Suns never did get any breaks. They suffered damning playoff injury after damning playoff injury and never got any luck. And thus those Suns never made it to the promised land.
Judging by that criteria, the 2010-11 Suns don’t have a championship-worthy team (if you didn’t already know that). Nash isn’t a prototypical superstar on a championship team, there are no true complementary stars and nobody quite knows what their role will be at this point in the offseason.
I still maintain this will be a fun team that wins a lot of games and might make a bit of a run in the postseason, but this isn’t what championship teams have looked like over the years.
Simmons gets in a few shots at Steve Nash by placing his two MVPs in the “Outright Travesties” department, with the 2005 MVP ranking as the seventh-biggest travesty and 2006 third. However, Simmons would have given Nash Dirk’s 2007 MVP assuming the previous two awards went to his so-called rightful owner
He also ranks Nash as the 38th best player of all time, a spot behind his buddy Dirk. Simmons ranked Two Time this high thanks to the way his style was so contagious to his teammates and his magnificent 2007 along with his other myriad of achievements.
This book is obviously now a bit dated, so I wonder where Simmons would rank Nash after his spectacular 2009-10 and whether he has a shot at cracking the top 30 with a few more great years as he continues to age gracefully (he was bumped up “two or three spots” in Decemeber 2009).