PHOENIX — It would only be fitting forto break the Phoenix Suns’ all-time franchise assist record in front of his home fans against his former team, the Dallas Mavericks.
That seems likely as Two Time needs to hand out a mere seven assists in tonight’s 7 p.m. tilt against the Mavs to pass Kevin Johnson, a rather ordinary total for the NBA’s current assists leader at 9.9 a contest. That is assuming he is able to play through the left thigh bruise he suffered at the end of Saturday’s win over the Grizzlies, which Nash said he is “optimistic” will be the case although The Arizona Republic reported he is merely questionable.
Nash has passed out 6,512 helpers during his time with the Suns, 6,112 of which have come in 559 games since returning to Phoenix in 2004 (about 10.9 a game). He averaged just 2.8 a contest in 141 games between 1996-98 before heading to Dallas.
But since signing with the Suns in 2004, he’s been unquestionably the best assist man in the NBA. According to the Suns’ pregame notes, Nash owns the most assists since the start of every season since his return to Phoenix, providing remarkable consistency (and health) in leading the Suns’ high-flying offense. Even with the Phoenix offense grounded a bit this year Nash still finds himself at the top of the assists leader board.
KJ passed Alvan Adams for the all-time Suns record on April 2, 1993, and almost 7,000 days later it appears he will pass on that crown to a player he faced every day in practice during Nash’s formative years.
“If I had to pick one person to break my record, I’d be honored to have Steve be that guy,” KJ told The Arizona Republic. “He’s been a great ambassador to the game both on and off the court and has a work ethic that is second to none. No doubt Steve will break more records as he continues his Hall of Fame career.”
Another former Suns point guard from Nash’s early days (Jason Kidd) will be on hand for the potential record breaker, although he is currently out with a calf injury. Shawn Marion, who was on the receiving end of many of those assists, will be in attendance as well after torching the Suns for 29 points in a Mavs victory last week, as will .
Never one to celebrate records, Nash is likely focusing more on how important it is for Phoenix to build on Saturday’s victory over Memphis.
The Suns have yet to extend any kind of a winning streak all season, with their lone runs being a pair of two-game streaks. Every time they have gotten a big victory, another long losing streak has been just around the corner.
Based on recent history the Mavericks aren’t the most likely team for Phoenix to embark on a winning streak against. The Mavericks have beaten the Suns twice in Dallas already this year and seven times in a row overall. Since the start of the 2008-09 season the Suns have just two victories in 13 games against Nash’s former team.
“I expect us defensively to try to set the tone,”said. “Dallas is a team that doesn’t have too many weaknesses. They’re smart, they’re deep, they can shoot, post up, and they play hard, so for us it’s going to be setting the tone early. Hopefully we can hit some shots to open up the paint a little bit.”
The Suns do have one advantage in that they took Sunday off while the Mavs needed overtime to secure a hard-fought victory over the Spurs in which they blew an 18-point lead. Kidd is out and Dirk Nowitzki is just coming back from his “eight-day personal training camp,” as ESPN Dallas’ Jeff Caplan put it, only to play 38 minutes against the Spurs.
The Suns’ best shot at a victory, therefore, may be to push the tempo more than the middle-of-the-pack pace team that they are and take advantage of a weary Mavericks squad like they did earlier this season in a home thrashing of the Blazers.
For that to happen, as always, the Suns will need their soon-to-be assists record holder to lead the charge.
According to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds, the Suns possess just a 1.7 percent chance of reaching postseason play with an estimated 24-42 record. However, those odds give them a 6.6 percent chance of winning the lottery.