PHOENIX — Steve Nash is set to make his second return to the Valley Monday night as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and while the build up might not have been what it was back on January 30, the two-time MVP still spoke in front of a throng of reporters before tip-off. Nash touched on everything from the Lakers’ place in the playoff picture to playing without Kobe Bryant to his days in Phoenix.
“I feel like this is a such a special place for me,” Nash said of Phoenix. “Such an impactful, important part of my life is here. To come back and get that kind of reception (on January 30) after working my butt off for all of those years was above and beyond. It was really, really cool.”
For former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, a return to US Airways Center is nothing new — as he’s now done it with the Knicks and Lakers. D’Antoni noted that at this point he’s not worried about how he’s received by Phoenix fans. Instead, he said he’s just glad he got to enjoy a day of the warm weather.
D’Antoni and Co. will try to win their second straight game without 15-time All-Star Kobe Bryant (ankle). While Los Angeles currently sits firmly in eight place with a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz heading into Monday’s contest, the Lakers will try to achieve another feat against the Suns: win the second game of a back-to-back for the first time in 2012-13.
Even with Bryant out, D’Antoni said he will stay with a seven-man rotation that features Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison coming off the pine.
On the flip side, Lindsey Hunter was asked about how he’s feeling following a dismal road trip that saw the Suns drop all three games by an average margin of 21.6 points. The former 17-year NBA veteran sounded more like a player than a coach during his pre-game media session.
“You have to cherish the moments you play in this league because it’s not a right it’s a privilege,” Hunter said. “You never know what can happen or when your last minute will be. Whether you’re in the playoffs or not in the playoffs, when you go out there and represent Phoenix you have to do your best.
“I’ll tell guys all the time the greatest player to ever put on a pair of shoes is done playing, and the league is still thriving. The league will go on with or without you. That’s the reality of it. If you don’t take advantage of it when you can, you’ll look back on it thinking I wish I could’ve.”
Hunter was also about where Michael Beasley fits in the rotation given that Luis Scola is now back on the bench behind Markieff Morris. While Beasley was one of the lone bright spots for Phoenix in Saturday’s 22-point loss in Washington D.C., Hunter said that the first-year Sun will play in whatever spot — small forward or power forward — he’s most effective in.
That can be a tough thing to navigate given Beasley’s highly-inconsistent nature, but Hunter said it’s his job to get the most out of the former No. 2 overall pick.
“(Working with Beasley) is not frustrating for me, because I look at it like a kid trying to grow,” said Hunter. “If he gets it one day I will be the happiest guy in the world because I helped this kid. I’m trying to help him, that’s what we’re here for. I think now coaching has kind of evolved, sometimes you’re a teacher, sometimes you’re a counselor.
“You have to wear different hats. There’s a time when you coach the player and a time when you coach the human being. With Michael, you have to really be in tune with which one you’re going to have to coach at a given time. ”
- P.J. Tucker will start in place of Marcus Morris and is expected to guard Steve Nash.
- The Suns have three straight against the Lakers at home — their longest streak since November 2004-April 2007.
- In three games against the Lakers, Michael Beasley has averaged 19.7 points per game. It’s his highest average against any team.