Good Story From AZCentral About My First Basketball Coach's Recovery From a Stroke.
Welcome to the TWENTIETH (CAN YOU BELIEVE WE'VE DONE 20 OF THESE!?) piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled somewhat of a 'special' as in 'short-bus' cast of writers to put together alternative views and biased views and amazing views on the players, front office, and coaches. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve. Please also comment a lot on Eutychus' posts and you must hit the REC button so that he can pay for graduate school and his addiction to Sour Skittles... even though he only imagines he makes money when his articles get rec'ed.
Until November 17, Steve Nash was playing at a level nearly above and beyond where he was when he captured his TWO MVP trophies... but something happened that forced Steve to end the season with a few wrinkles in his overall career stat-sheet.
This all sounds terrible right? Well guess what - he was still one of the best players in the NBA. I might have made all that sound bad but trust me - what is sub-par for Steve Nash is above and out of reach for most NBA players. He is a special Canadian and the reasons for his decline in some statistics this year is due to probably a couple of factors. Here's the first,most obvious and no doubt the primary culprit.
First, it was 'the groin'.
Then it was 'pubic symphysis'.
Then in an attempt to curb the giddy laughter of you immature folk out there and reduce the pollution of the air with the word 'pubic'... it was 'pelvic instability'.
Despite the injury's many description changes, one fact remained/remains the same - I have no idea what it is but if he says his man parts hurt then by golly he has all the sympathy I can offer.
The injury definitely affected Nash's performance on the court. He was still able to dish the ball and capture this year's assist title... but his shooting and mobility in general were absolutely hampered.
Here's a video that explains the injury and it's affects in great detail - props to Mike Schmitz and Valley of the Suns. (Oh, and by the way... I just picked up some video editing software and an HD PVR [Personal Video Recorder] he he = you here at Bright Side of the Sun might get some extra-amazing content for next season)
So if your pubic area is hurting BADLY all the time and especially when you move and do things like gee I don't know... play basketball, do you think you could still go out there and shoot nearly 50-40-90? I don't either... but Nash still almost did it. In fact he was the closest player to accomplishing that feat despite his injury that obviously greatly affected his play.
Now above I mentioned that his decline in stats was due to a couple of factors here's the 2nd.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion... and my opinion is that it would be nearly impossible for someone (even a Cyborg like Nash is) to NOT be affected emotionally and mentally by the stresses and rigors that accompany a divorce. Especially one involving children.
Now let me know if you felt the same way or not - but I definitely think this year I saw a more fiery - quick tempered - vocal - and edgy Steve Nash than I have ever seen. He was quick to pick up T's and sharp with his words towards the team and it's abilities. Not always the normal stoic and philosophic Nash we have been used to.
Now how can I link this to his decline in stats? I can't actually. But I can assume as a fellow human being that problems/issues like this at home can and usually inevitably affect a person's performance at work - even if your work is to play basketball.
I could also say that maybe the divorce actually helped Steve play better though! Because indeed until he sustained his mysterious injury the Nash Rambler was on track to surpass statistically by a large margin everything he had done during his MVP seasons and we all marveled at the way he was playing.
So maybe in reality the Injury was the primary and singular cause to his decline in some stats but being the creature of sophistry that I am I won't leave it out as a possible factor either.
So a weird thing is happening to Steve... his ability to recognize and execute plays while the shot-clock or game-clock are winding down is increasingly becoming FAIL status. I don't know what it is... and I can't link it to the injury because it has nothing to do with his pubic symphonies. Maybe his vision is going bad and he can't see the clocks? He's started this bad habit over the course of the last couple years too. I don't know what it is and I hope he figures out that it's a problem and spends more time at the park or in the gym like we all have done as children - taking shots and counting down to ourselves "He's got the ball at the 3-point line... time is ticking, for the victory... 3...2...1". Maybe that will help. A little coaching advice from Coach Euty. Put it on my tab homie.
Now on to the good stuff.
This year Steve Nash...
Alright you see all that junk that he did... despite a severe injury and missing 7 games? Now multiply the amazingness of it by 10 when you consider the fact that all those things were manufactured by Steve on team where he has NO ALL-STAR caliber players around him. No stars at all. Not one Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. That my friends. Is amazing.
But no matter how amazing it might seem to us as adoring fans of The Great One... Sorry Gretzky, the other Canadian sports icon... it is all drowned out in the fact that the Phoenix Suns didn't make the playoffs and didn't even finish the season with a positive record.
40 - 42
That right there my friends... isn't going to get you recognition for JACK SH**. And it's too bad. But oh well, I'm a Suns fan and here's what I think -
According to my trapper-keeper full of Suns notes.. Steve Nash was pretty much snubbed twice this year.
As an All star - I'm just going to steal ussell Westbrook over Steve Nash in the All-Star Game? Really, Western Conference Coaches? Sure, the Oklahoma City Thunder (31-17) have a better record than the Phoenix Suns (23-24) but Nash's numbers are better overall and he's meant far more to his team. And fellas, how about showing a little respect for the older guy?
Westbrook joins Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol as the seven reserves voted on to the 2011 NBA All-Star team. While Charles Barkley is losing his lunch on TNT talking about how Kevin Love being left off was the biggest travesty of all time, the real shame isn't snubbing the second-year double-double machine who plays on bad team at a fast pace. The real travesty is picking third-year Westbrook over Nash.
Nash is averaging 16.8 points, 11.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He's shooting a ridiculous 52.6 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three.
Westbrook is averaging an impressive 22.4 points per game playing next to Kevin Durant who sucks up all the opponent's defensive attention and he's only 43.4 percent from the field and a horrible 24 percent from three. Westbrook adds 8.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds to his line.
I congratulated the coaches for ignoring the shiny new toy in Minnesota (Love) but why couldn't they do the same for Westbrook?
And as a member of the All-NBA Team - I'll steal Paul Coro's words for this one...
Guard Steve Nash was the only Suns player to receive votes but his 17 voting points (no first-team votes) were not close to the 106 points that San Antonio's Manu Ginobili accrued to claim the final third-team guard spot. In fact, Nash finished 10th in All-NBA voting among guards behind Derrick Rose (593), Kobe Bryant (551), Dwyane Wade (392), Russell Westbrook (184), Chris Paul (157), Ginobili, Rajon Rondo (68), Tony Parker (27) and Deron Williams (19).
That is what a Suns record of 40-42 will do for you. Just ask Andre Miller or Mark Jackson. They are the only other NBA assist champions to be left off the All-NBA teams since the third team was added in 1989. Miller led the NBA in assists in 2001-02 for 29-53 Cleveland, and Jackson did it in 1996-97 when he split the season between 21-61 Denver and 39-43 Indiana.
Nash led the NBA with 11.4 assists per game but Rondo and Williams finished second and third and also did not make the teams.
The last sentence right there says something. Does the NBA and those who vote not care about the difficulty and lost art of passing the ball? Does the NBA praise and hail ball-hogging? Whatever... maybe it's a discussion for later, maybe I'm jealous that other teams have more athletically freakish players that they call 'point guards'. Maybe I'm just sick of watching Russel Westbrook continually pretend to be baby jesus and forget the fact that he has the greatest scorer probably ever to play the game to PASS to. Rant over.
If I have to give Steve Nash a grade for his performance this year I'd give him an A- only because of his injury which affected his play and also because of his declining ability to recognize an expiring clock, be it shot or game. Otherwise, individually Steve Nash was his usual self. AMAZING.
So... how many more years do you think Steve could play?
Or a better question - How many more years do you want Steve Nash to play for the Suns?
Only one series remains open in the conference semi-finals as the Thunder take their 3-2 lead back to Memphis tonight to try to close out the Grizzlies. It's been an impressive playoff run for the Grizzlies, but let's be honest: they're probably done. It was essential they win that 3OT game 4 to take command, and when they didn't that likely sealed their fate. I expect the Thunder to close it tonight, or they'll definitely take a game 7 if it comes to that.
Once upon a time, this series would have featured the Vancouver Grizzlies vs. the Seattle SuperSonics in a clash of Pacific Northwest opponents. Seattle and Vancouver, BC are only about a 3 hour drive apart, but the way they remember their lost NBA teams is quite different.
The Sonics were Seattle's only major professional sports team to bring the city a title. They won the NBA Championship in 1979, defeating the Phoenix Suns in the WCF along the way (ask any old-time Suns fan about this). Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times explains the pain Seattle hoops fans feel upon the success of the Thunder.
Meanwhile, LZ Granderson of ESPN wrote a long but worthwhile and interesting piece on the city of Memphis and their relationship with the Grizzlies.
Seattle, Vancouver, Memphis, Oklahoma City. OK, so maybe it's more like a tale of four cities, but given the contributions of British writers here the last couple of days with the excellent works of Toon Army Sun and keiththejourno, a Dickens reference seemed appropriate.
Tonight's game: Thunder at Grizzlies, 6PM PDT, ESPN. Thunder lead series 3-2.
The timing of this piece, potentially, was pretty good. When you have a crappy, losing season, you look for the little things to celebrate in place of actual team success. You know, those little things that make you feel just a little bit better about the year gone by, where you say "Well, the Suns sucked, but at least this happened". Vince Carter being released would have been one such thing, but sadly that hasn't been done yet. While the Lakers' and Spurs' exits were highly enjoyable, I'm talking about Suns players winning league awards.
As good as he was this year, I think we all knew Steve Nash wouldn't be making the All NBA teams. As impressive as his stats were as a sixth man (and as a starter), we also all knew it was a long shot that Marcin Gortat would come away with the Sixth Man of the Year Award. And unless a bizarre series of events occurred involving a combination of stuffed brown envelopes, large amounts of alcohol and possibly a weapon or two, there was no chance anyone in the Suns front office would walk away with Executive of the Year. Grant Hill on an All Defensive Team though? Absolutely.
If there's one thing that impressed me most this season, it was Grant Hill's defensive efforts, game in game out. I was sure he'd grab a spot on one of those teams. Totally convinced. So with the All Defensive Teams scheduled to be announced several days before this piece was slated to drop, I had it all wrapped up. Never mind breaking down Grant Hill's game, his age, his season performance, his strengths, his weaknesses, etc etc. I could have simply just pointed out that he was voted All Defensive team. That there ends all arguments. You simply can't argue against bringing back a guy who just made an All-NBA Team.
Somehow though, Grant Hill was left off both the 1st and 2nd NBA All Defensive Teams. Genuinely, it shocked me. It meant I now actually had to put some effort into writing a full piece, so here we are.
Lon Babby calls Steve Nash "the sun, moon and stars" of the Suns. I'm not sure I actually agree with that. It's not that I don't think Nash is that awesome, he really is. It's just that the more I think about it, the more Grant Hill is increasingly important to this Suns team. I know he's not our engine like Nash is, but losing Hill would be almost as bad as losing Nash. In three seasons, his hustle, leadership, professionalism and total commitment to the Suns cause has made him vital.
He's part of the team's identity now. When people think of the Suns, they (hopefully) think not only of the fast paced exciting brand of basketball, but of our aging veterans and the superb standards they set in their approach to the game, their team mates, opponents and fans. Trust me, in 10 years time we'll look back and think "how great was Grant Hill, what a top guy, I wish we had more players like him today."
That alone is enough for me to want to see Grant back in a Suns uniform. Even if he had had an awful season, I'd want Grant back with this organisation. You just can't put a price on the personal qualities someone like him brings to a team. (Side note: I'd rather lose with a bunch of superb professionals, than win with a bunch of punks. Look at that Lakers team the other night. I would be ashamed if that was the Suns behaving like that.)
For the sake of it though, let's look at his 2010-11 stats:
G GS MPG FG% 3p% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
80 80 30.1 0.484 0.395 0.829 1.0 3.3 4.2 2.5 0.8 0.4 1.7 2.3 13.2
13.2 PPG while shooting an insane .484? Not bad at all. Both those numbers are up slightly from the previous season. He even shot an impressive .395 from three point range this past year. Not bad at all for a career .319 shooter. In other words, his stats haven't dropped off at all from the previous year, despite being another year older. The most significant number though, is the fact that he played in EIGHTY games, missing just two. That would be impressive for any 38 year old, let alone someone who has basically been injured for half his NBA career.
What the stats don't show however, is Grant's efforts defensively. Whether you watched one Suns game or all 82, you would have picked up on his defensive efforts. Night in, night out, he'd be assigned to defend the opponent's best scorer, and he'd bust his arse doing the best job he possibly could. Kobe, Durant, D-Will, Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Nowitzki...hell, even Blake Griffin, Grant took them all on like the BAMF he is. He'd regularly match up with younger, faster, more athletic or just plain bigger opponents, doing the absolute best he could. The result? His opponents were held to 0.83 points per possession.
Here's one such example of a classic Grant Hill defensive performance. Sure, Kevin Durant got his 28 points, but he shot 8-19 in the process. You'll also notice though, that Hill had 30 points and 11 rebounds of his own to lead the Suns to victory in the wake of the J-Rich trade. You'll find many more examples like this. The man flat out brought it every night.
What more is left to say? Solid stats, fantastic defense, great leader, absolute professional and a fan favourite. Oh, he also WANTS to remain with the Suns, saying:
"It'd be nice to come back and prove that we can be better than we were this season," Hill said. "Let's just hope and pray we have a season first and foremost and then we'll see what happens. Hopefully, it works out and we can improve and get better."
Obviously, there will be interest around the league from numerous teams wanting to acquire his services. Last time round it was Boston (bi-annual exception) and New York (full MLE) both making pitches to him. This time round, I'd be surprised if it wasn't more of the same. Regardless of what happens with the new CBA and the lockout, if there's games to be played, teams will be looking at Grant Hill.
It's pretty obvious to anyone that the Suns are effectively out of the mix in the West. Maybe they can simply add a few pieces to get back where they were. Maybe it will take more than that. More than likely though, it will probably take a few seasons. Or at least, that's my realistic view on things. Regardless, it is absolutely vital that Hill comes back, either to be a part of getting back to where we were, or to pave the way with everything he brings to the table. Standards need to be set, and there's no better man in the league to do that than Grant Hill. We should be proud.
If you disagree, frankly, you're wrong. I'll leave you with some Grant Hill Suns highlights.
Addendum: I only wish I could have written this as well as he wrote his New York Times piece. What a man.