Saturday, February 7, 2009

Happy 35th, Steve Nash

This is an article I found on

Happy 35th, Steve Nash
By Marc

Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the Phoenix Suns' trade for Shaquille O'Neal.

Saturday is Steve Nash's 35th birthday.

You can safely assume that the celebrations for both occasions were on the humble side.

There simply isn't a lot of happiness in the desert these days. Not with the Suns following the Arizona Cardinals' Super Bowl heartbreak by fading anew into chaos, prompting Suns management to explore the team's options for multiple changes before the Feb. 19 trading deadline, all of which is happening with much of the NBA world soon to descend upon Phoenix for All-Star Weekend.

Nash didn't even make the West All-Stars for the first time since he went back to the team that drafted him, which only adds to the Suns' public suffering, but he did consent to discussing several pertinent topics in a chat with that originally was intended to commemorate his birthday milestone.

Here's Nash on:

How he feels his body is holding up at 35:

"I feel great. I'm definitely more 'experienced.' But mentally and physically, I don't feel like I've changed that much. I feel just as capable as ever.

"And I think there are some positive changes as you get older. I'm a more accurate shooter. I'm better going both ways. I probably have more skills than I did five years ago.

"… I'm still planning to play three more years. Maybe in a few years, if I'm not playing at a high level, I'll have to re-evaluate that, but hopefully I can keep playing 'til I'm 38."

His current frustration level with the Suns' plight:

"It's been the toughest year of my career. By far.

"I went through some things early in my career in Dallas that were tough personally, but no one was really expecting us to do anything back then. The expectations weren't great like they are here in Phoenix, so this has been a lot tougher. … We've just been talking and talking and talking, and we can't seem to find the answers for how to make it work."

Whether he now sees major changes, such as the exit of Amare Stoudemire, as inevitable before the Feb. 19 trading deadline:

"We'll see. If we don't turn the corner soon, this franchise has every right to go in another direction.

"I can see why people say that [it's time to start rebuilding]. We have an older team, so if there are moves to be made that are better for the long term, I can totally understand why they would go in that direction.

"I still want things to improve for this mix of players, but, like I said, I haven't been able to find the answers."

His statistical drop this season from 16.9 points and 11.1 assists per game to 14.0 points and 9.6 assists:

"With our group of guys, everybody needs the ball. So I think part of it is that I've tried to accommodate all of our scorers.

"It kind of reminds me of my last year in Dallas. I was kind of over-accommodating at the beginning because we [traded for Antawn] Jamison and [Antoine] Walker.

"But I also think it's pretty obvious that if you're only taking nine, 10 shots a game, you're not going to score as much as you used to. I don't want to sound super defensive, but I think I've tried to sacrifice for the good of the team."

Charges that the numbers that helped him win two MVP awards wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been playing in Mike D'Antoni's free-wheeling offense:

"There might be some validity to that. There are more possessions in his games, [there is] more spacing, more opportunities for guys who are skilled and smart. Having a chance to play for him took my career to another level.

"But I also feel like I should be able to adapt to any system. I played in a few All-Star Games before I played for Mike. I think my scoring numbers would be the same [as in previous seasons] if I was taking a few more shots."

The one-year anniversary of the trade for Shaq and where the Suns are now:

"I felt it was a gamble we had to take. With Shawn [Marion], as good as he was physically, we were just way too small as a team. The Lakers would just throw the ball up on the rim with [Lamar] Odom, [Pau] Gasol, [Andrew] Bynum, and it was like volleyball [for them]. "

"The challenge for us is that we still haven't found that balance on offense between going in to Shaq and finding that spacing and movement that everyone else needs."

Whether he ever second-guesses the decision to leave Dallas and best friend Dirk Nowitzki to return to the Suns when he was 30 and Nowitzki was 26:

"I think it would have been great. I know it would have been great, but how much time can you spend looking back? We've already played two-thirds of the time [apart] that we played together."

The theory that he and Nowitzki needed to go their separate ways to reach their full potential:

"I think we [got better in the years apart], but I don't think it's because we split up. Maybe a little bit, but I feel like I've improved almost every year of my career.

"Maybe people looked at that last year in Dallas and said, 'He's done, he's slowing down, he's going to break down.' But I went into that summer [of 2004] after losing in the first round extremely motivated to overcome that.

"I worked my tail off and made big improvements to my game and my [conditioning]. Those improvements were going to come whether I played for Phoenix or Dallas."

The possibility of reuniting with D'Antoni in New York or going home to Canada with Toronto as a 2010 free agent:

"Like I always say, my first priority is finishing my career here in Phoenix. If it came to the point that they break up our team or it's time to look elsewhere, obviously there would be worse places to go than Toronto or New York. I have connections to both places, on and off the floor.

Whether he'll consider the Suns' offer to sign an extension this summer to keep him from reaching free agency:

"All I can say right now is that I look forward to that conversation."

The prospect of retiring with those MVP awards but no championships:

"I would still look back on a great career. Not everybody can win it all, and not everybody can win as many games as I've been fortunate enough to win in my career.

"I feel like I've given it a hell of an effort. If it turns out that I wasn't good enough to win a championship or the teams I was on weren't good enough … if people want me to hold up my hand and say that's my bad, my responsibility, that's no problem. I'm giving it everything I have, so I can't really worry too much about what other people think.

"My No. 1 goal in basketball is to win a championship. No. 2 is to have fun and improve every year and enjoy my teammates."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for To e-mail him, click here.

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