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(SB Nation Arizona, Avinash Kunnath) Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns is 38 years old, and he's not getting any younger. But it's hard to notice that when you watch it on the floor. Nash has performed at an All-Star level, piling up 11.3 assists per game while averaging 12.7 points per game and shooting 53.7% from the field and 38.9% from three. Despite his age, Nash seems to be producing as well as he ever as in the most efficient manner possible.

It should come as no surprise he wants to stay in the league. It might be a bit of a surprise how long he plans on staying. Marc Stein of ESPN reports that Nash wants to play into his 40s, and he wants his new deal to reflect that come time for free agency.

Nash, who turned 38 in February, also told ESPN.com in a phone interview before Tuesday night's game in Sacramento he intends to "sign for three more years this summer" and play beyond his 40th birthday when he either inks a new deal to stay with the Suns or finds a new team via free agency.

Responding to a New York Post report in Tuesday's editions which described the condition of Nash's back as "bad as it has ever been," Nash strongly disputed such suggestions. He expressed great satisfaction with the way his health has held up through the rigors of a lockout-compacted schedule that called for 66 regular-season games in a span of about 120 days.

It's a tall order, but if Nash is healthy and he stays this productive, I doubt it'd be hard for any team to turn down three years of one of the greatest point guards ever playing the way he's been playing.

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Phoenix Suns 109, Sacramento Kings 100   PHOENIX — Fourteen games remain on the Phoenix Suns’ schedule, plenty of time for a team on the verge of surpassing preseason expectations to...

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Jared Dudley = Eye of the tiger : Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

The Phoenix Suns begin their three-game road trip in Sacramento to start things off against the Kings. It's time for some road rage -- there is no room for error as the Suns currently sit two games out of a playoff spot and the team rhetoric as of late is that the playoffs have already started for the Suns. Every game from here on out is a playoff game -- because every game matters that much when it comes to making the post-season.

"We know that we are going to have to play well and we are going to have games that we have to win and a lot of those games are going to be on the road," coach Alvin Gentry said. "For us, (Sunday was) our first playoff game and we get on a plane and fly to Sacramento and that will be our next playoff game. I think that's the way we have to approach it."

The Sacramento Kings are one spot from the very bottom of the Western Conference. If the Suns are going to make the playoffs this is a game that they absolutely must win.

That being said, the Kings are playing well as of late and by that I mean they beat the Timberwolves* pretty bad last night and actually looked like a team while doing it. Check the recap over at Sactown Royalty for more about it.

*The Timberwolves are in a dark place though - so, eh.

Tonight will be a familiar battle - Keeping DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson off the glass (especially the O-Boards), make Tyreke Evans a Jump Shooter by preventing him from driving the lane so easily and keep close tabs on their sharpshooters - especially Thornton.

MATCH-UPS

Steve Nash - Isaiah Thomas

Shannon Brown - Tyreke Evans

Jared Dudley - Marcus Thornton*

Channing Frye - Jason Thompson

Marcin Gortat - DeMarcus Cousins

* Thorton left last night's game after taking a Luke Ridnour front roundhouse kick to the calf. He's got a bruised muscle so we'll see what happens. He's officially listed as day-to-day.

EUTY-KEYS

This is what I'm going to be watching for tonight -

  • More Production from Jared Dudley - He did well Sunday scoring 21, but the team needs him to again find his stroke and consistency offensively, with Grant Hill out there is no other choice for Dudz.
  • Win the battle of the Glass - Rebounding is important or something.
  • Limit the points in the paint - Jason Thompson is a known and well documented "Suns-Killer" and DeMarcus Cousins seems to always have amazing games against us. I'd point out that his only Flagrant Foul of the season (so far) was against the Suns, so I'm sure he'll be fired up and ready to make a whole bunch of mean faces and
  • Contain the Rookie - Isaiah Thomas has won the Western Conference Rookie of the month for his second month in a row. Crazy - he was drafted 60th last year. That's last, as in that's 59 other kids chosen before him - do you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth? (*Chris Tucker Voice) Thomas lead all Western Conference rookies in March with 12.2 ppg and was 2nd in assists with 4.4. He is very small, but lightning fast and gritty.
  • Contain the old Rookie - Tyreke Evans was 2010's rookie of the year... and with Grant Hill out and unable put the defensive vice-grips on the young fella it's going to be a stiff job for Jared Dudley and/or Shannon Brown to keep this raging Bull out of the paint. Good help defense and rotations can do the trick to force Evans to shoot rather than drive - but he'll drive anyways. Hopefully they can keep him around the perimeter.
  • Don't trail going into the 4th quarter - The Kings are 10-0 at home when entering the 4th quarter with a lead. Nuff' said.

Check out more over at SB Nation AZ -

When all is said and done - this is most definitely a must win game for the Phoenix Suns.

LET'S GET IT ON.

Tonight we play Sac on the road.Very young talented team that plays free and with confidence.Have to be ready to guard 1 on 1 and rebound

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) April 3, 2012

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Really Chicago?  Really?

Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA Playoff race in the Western Conference remains as congested and as up-in-the-air as ever. While the top four teams have somewhat distanced themselves from the rest of the pack, the hunt for the 5th through 8th seeds are still very much up for grabs for the other eight teams who are battling to make the post season.

The teams currently ahead of the Phoenix Suns (10) in the standings that are realistically within reach are the Memphis Grizzlies (5), Dallas Mavericks (6), Denver Nuggets (7), Utah Jazz (8), and Houston Rockets (9). Other than the Nuggets, all of these teams played last night and either slightly helped or hurt their causes with the result.

Read on after the jump for a look at the most up to date standings and a quick summary of the games that mattered most.

Here are the current NBA Western conference Standings for April 3rd, 2012

Wc_standings_04-03-2012_medium

Games of interest on Monday April 2nd:

Houston Rockets (8) BEAT Chicago Bulls 99-93

Rockets Grab 99-93 Win In Windy City - The Dream Shake

Chicago came out with a point to prove after being undressed in OKC 92-78 yesterday afternoon. The Rockets looked like a team that had just suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss at home less than 24 hours before tip-off, but to their credit, stood ready to right the ship.

Memphis Grizzlies (5) BEAT OKC Thunder (1) 94-88

Recap: Oklahoma City vs. Memphis - SB Nation

O.J. Mayo led six Grizzlies in double- figures with 22 points and Memphis held off a late surge to best the Oklahoma City Thunder, 94-88, on Monday.

Dallas Mavericks (6) LOST to Los Angeles Clippers (4) 94-75

Clippers 94, Mavericks 75: No Points - Mavs Moneyball

The Mavericks tried to build on the comeback against the Magic tonight and got bulldozed by the Clippers 94-75, who not only won the game but also picked up the tiebreaker (they take the season series 2-1). It pretty much means that the Mavericks can kiss a Top4 finish in the West goodbye.

Utah Jazz (9) BEAT Portland Trail Blazers (11) 102-97

Jazz Vs. Trail Blazers Post Game Thread: Jazz Win! One down, Eight more wins to go! - SLC Dunk

The Jazz don't usually win games in Portland, but they did tonight. This is exactly the type of win the Jazz need to set the tone for the rest of this month. It was a must win game, and they took care of business...

So after all of that, the Phoenix Suns still remain in 10th place where it seems like they have been stuck forever. The good news is the Suns have a few pretty important games starting this Friday against other potential playoff teams that could ensure they move up in the standings if they win.

Tonight, the Suns will face the Sacramento Kings on the road, and while this isn't a game that will necessarily help Phoenix displace one of their five biggest targets, it is very important to the Suns and their continued quest to stay in the playoff race that they get this win. The only other real game of interest for the Suns tonight will be the Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies, where the Suns will be hoping for the Warriors to come out victorious.

Stay tuned...

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It's fairly easy to recognize Hill's greatness.

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill has been named a winner of the 2012 Mannie Jackson - Basketball's Human Spirit Award as the professional basketball representative. Also named were Connecticut Men's Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun and the Founder and Director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport, Dr. Richard Lapchick, according to a press release from The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

According to the release, winners were selected by:

The criteria for award winners includes embracing the core values of the game through hard work, dedication, and resilience; striving to continuously improve the community they serve, and making an ongoing commitment to others. Beyond the game, award winners must reflect the values of Mannie Jackson’s life-long mission to overcome obstacles and challenge the status quo, while taking responsibility for personal actions and seeking the highest standard of excellence.

That certainly describes Hill, who is a 3-time winner of the NBA's Sportsmanship Award in addition to the numerous awards he's received for his performance on the court, 7 All-Star appearances and 5 All-NBA team awards among them. Here are the specific traits of Hill cited for the award:

Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns – Known for his positive attitude, strong work ethic and high moral code, Hill has routinely left his mark in a number of cities where he played professionally. He lends his support not only to a variety of national issues but to local issues as well. Hill was recently awarded a key to the city of Reston, Virginia, where he was raised with the proceeds from that reception going to the Medical Care for Children Partnership, which provides medical services for needy children in the county. Hill also appeared on behalf of Foot Locker and Fila, at a Detroit middle school to kick-off a program designed to replace backboards in 250 area schools. In addition, GMC Trucks sponsored his visit to the Michigan Special Olympics Women’s basketball team where he spoke, joked, and shot baskets with the players.

Said Jackson, the man for whom the award is named, and former player and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters: "We are proud to honor three of the most deserving selections since the award was established. Having known all three personally, I admire their sustained work and contributions to both the game of basketball and their communities."

Hill will be recognized on Sept. 6 in a ceremony leading up to the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Among this year's HOF inductees are Reggie Miller, Don Nelson and Jamaal Wilkes.

Past winners of the Mannie Jackson Award are Chauncey Billups, Samuel Dalembert, Alonzo Mourning, David Robinson and Dikembe Mutombo.

Congratulations, Grant! Making us proud again.


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