The drumbeat steadily increases. With every unsavory Suns’ loss to a losing team, writers, fans, and pundits make a beeline to the same three word chorus.
Free Steve Nash.
“I don’t want to say guys aren’t trying, just sometimes we don’t finish plays … We don’t grab loose balls, we don’t grab rebounds that are kind of 50-50 ones. I just think we kind of fall asleep sometimes and give up possessions here and there that at the end of the game are crucial.”
Steve Nash after Phoenix lost to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Maybe you hit shift+3 before you type it, and you leave out the spaces. You might fire up the ESPN Trade Machine and while away an hour or two trying to find a way to bring Nash to your favorite team. Maybe you don’t even have a dog in the race and simply believe that Nash would be happier (and you would be, too) if he was playing off the ball with Russell Westbrook at the point.
More often than not, I hear the same whispers. “Sure, Nash says he’s happy in Phoenix, but how could he be?” “Did you see what Nash said? Read between the lines – he wants out of Phoenix!”
I’ve also often heard it said that journalism is the only profession in which one can ask a question without providing a solution. If that’s true, Steve Nash manages to turn every fan into a journalist. You espouse his unhappiness, even though you don’t know how he truly feels. You demand that he be traded, even though you don’t know where he should go or what the other team should provide in return.
As a Suns fan, it makes me angry. As a basketball fan, it always makes me think of Carmelo Anthony.
During the height of the “Melo to the Nets” kerfuffle, there was a lot of noise. You’d have to be an astrophysicist to make sense of the background radiation and pick out anything meaningful from the daily deluge of deliberation, discussion, and downright misinformation. Fortunately, I took a basic astronomy course in college, so three (rather meaningless) things stuck out to me:
1. According to many observers, Denver fans didn’t deserve ‘Melo because of the harsh way they greeted his handling of the situation.
2. Carmelo should have the right to choose where he wants to work.
3. Because Carmelo wanted out, teams looking to acquire him were putting together low-ball offers.
Each time I see a Free Steve Nash! hashtag or read an article detailing the “Top 10 Destinations for Steve Nash!”, these three things come to mind.
Firstly, Nash has been the anti-Melo in his handling of the situation. He says all the right things, supports his teammates, and even hedges his criticisms, as seen in the block quote to start this story. In other words, he makes it very easy for Suns’ fans to support him (and the team), and they do – Phoenix still averages 95% attendance at home, just as they did last year when Amar’e was still in town, in a city that is largely predicated on the service industry and that has been hit hard by the economic contraction over the past 18 months.
So why do Suns’ fans not deserve Steve Nash? Why must he be freed? Is it because of the roster built around him, by an owner who sells draft picks and shrinks his front office? Ridiculous. We’re to be held accountable for the sins of our (metaphorical) father?
And shouldn’t Nash have the right to stay where he is, if that’s what he wants? Nash has proven his loyalty to the Suns time and time again. He’s expressed no desire to desert a sinking ship (and make no mistake – though I’m against the idea of “freeing” Nash, this ship is currently sinking). If it’s his choice to make every effort to patch the leaks, why can’t other NBA fans respect that? As much as Carmelo had the right to choose a different city if he wanted, Nash should be where he wants. Phoenix.
Finally, “Free Steve Nash!” isn’t a sales pitch. It’s not the price for a Steve Nash. It’s not a Family Guy-esque, “Free Tibet? I’ll take it!” opportunity. As I’ve written before, if you really want to free Steve Nash, give his supposed captors some motivation to rid themselves of him. Better yet, instead of trying to sucker-punch an entire fanbase, advocate the betterment of the talent around Nash instead of taking the easy way out and pushing for a trade that you only know the half of.
Kurt Helin pointed out today that Carmelo isn’t original in trying to force his way out of his current city. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did the same long ago to make his way to Los Angeles. ‘Melo certainly won’t be the last player to do so, either.
But Steve Nash, for now, isn’t trying to leave Phoenix. The Suns’ ownership has said he’s staying and won’t go anywhere. He’s not Carmelo Anthony, longing for a new locale, regretting the extension that he signed. We’re not trying to get rid of him, basketball fans – so please stop trying to take him from us. If you want to enjoy Steve Nash, turn on a Suns game. I guarantee you he’ll give you everything you want, even if he’s not wearing your team’s jersey.