Suns Preview: Phoenix vs. Dallas In Wake Of Nash Retirement

Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) grabs a rebound against the Dallas Mavericks at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) grabs a rebound against the Dallas Mavericks at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

What better way to honor Steve Nash‘s retirement than a rematch between his two teams (no I don’t know what Nash has been up to the last three years, why do you ask?).

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Despite growing up over 2,000 miles away in New York, and (unfortunately) a loyal New York Knicks fan, Nash was my favorite player growing up and a big part of the reason I got into basketball.

Nash had his share of big moments with the Dallas Mavericks, playing along his best friend in the league in Dirk Nowitzki, but ultimately was just a good point guard in a league full of them.

Mark Cuban certainly saw it that way and allowed Nash to leave in the summer of 2004 despite his relationship with Nowitzki.

Thanks to the Phoenix sunshine, or more likely the league’s new hand-check rule, Nash transformed into the best guard of his generation and ran some of the most enjoyable teams the league has ever seen.

Nash finished his career as the league’s all-time leader in free throw percentage, third all-time assists and within percentage points of creating the league’s career 50-40-90 club. He had one of the most fascinating careers in NBA history, as the rare player to peak after 30.

He abjectly refuses to let his career be defined by a lack of a title, so fans shouldn’t either. He played with an infectious selflessness and pace that made those Phoenix teams, and current teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors that model aspects of their systems off of Nash’s Suns teams, such a joy to watch, not to mention better than the sum of their parts.

Hopefully Phoenix and Dallas further honor Nash’s legacy tonight playing for their teammates and maybe not so much defense.

Bledsoe versus Rondo

Come on, we couldn’t start anywhere else. Eric Bledsoe is coming off a career high 34 points in a resounding 117-101 victory over the Houston Rockets. Much like the Suns as a whole, it was the best offensive game he’s played since the deadline, as he looked absolutely unstoppable going to the rim while completely outplaying MVP candidate James Harden.

On the other side of things there’s Rajon Rondo, who continues to struggle to fit with the Dallas Mavericks. Rondo has played better this month, as he’s shooting better, getting more assists and dominating the ball less.

Unfortunately the Mavericks haven’t risen with their point guard going just 5-4 so far this month, and playing particularly poorly in their last outing, against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Both of these teams will play as well as their lead guard, and since Nash isn’t walking out of either locker room it’s going to come down to these two.

The Matchups

If a high scoring game is the goal then a Monta Ellis-Bledsoe matchup is the road to take. Ellis shoots 48 percent against Bledsoe for his career, while Bled has dominated his encounters with the Mavs guard, shooting a scintilling 65%.

Another one to look out for is at the four spot. Markieff Morris doesn’t always pass the eye test defensively, but he certainly ups the intensity for a certain German future Hall of Famer, as Nowitzki shoots just 40 percent for his career against the twin.

This would be a good game to get Gerald Green some time as he shoots a combined 47 percent against Dallas stoppers Devin Harris and Richard Jefferson.

Wolfpack Rising

T.J. Warren is sure to be motivated a day after his alma matter knocked off a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, and head coach Jeff Hornacek told me he loves Warren’s ability to move off the ball.

“It pulls the defense in…in a way it spreads the court out a little bit,” he said.

He also lauded Warren’s ability to catch and finish once he’s open.

“He’s not a guy where you have to give him a perfect pass every time, he’s got great hands so when Eric drives and can get it somewhere in his vicinity, he can catch it.”

It’s worth noting once again that Warren is shooting a ridiculous 73 percent at the rim, not exactly common for a rookie small forward.

Barea Down

The Mavericks will be without the services of J.J. Barea, who will not travel to Phoenix following a left ankle sprain suffered in Saturday’s practice.

Next: Phoenix Suns: 5 Must-Win Games To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

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