A friend and I talked about the Phoenix Suns emergence as a basketball power. He made a very interesting and possibly revealing comment. He said, “if Steve Nash is so loveable, why is he the only one left in Phoenix?”
Joe Johnson left the Valley of the Sun as he developed his dynamic perimeter game. Shawn Marion left in his prime to join Dwyane Wade and a dysfunctional supporting cast. And now, Mike D’Antoni has escaped to New York.
For all of the love Steve Nash gets, some of Phoenix’s best pieces have broken away. Nash is a great player, a couple MVPs have solidified that statement. But for all of the professed love, why has Phoenix ostracized several important pieces?
Of all the people in Phoenix, save Nash’s hair stylist, I would never have guessed Mike D’Antoni would hurl himself away from the tree.
When asked, “the Knicks are a mess. When do you expect a full-scale intervention?” Steve Nash said it himself, in a 2006 SI interview, “At some point, they’ve got to hit the jackpot. We’ll see…”
D’Antoni and Nash. Steve and Mike. These two names were whispered in unison. Nothing ever felt so right since Nash’s amicable divorce from Dirk Nowitzki.
Maybe Joe Johnson really did want the money and a chance to lead a team. Maybe Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni were really pushed out the door. I certainly don’t know the truth to this.
However, when a big cog or valuable player is forced out, the blame usually falls on the people left behind. See Kobe, when Shaq left. See Cuban, when Nash left. See Riley, when Shaq left. See Thorn, when Kidd left. See hill-billies, when Gasol left. (Kidding, Tennessee. I’ll see you in a few months.)
I’m not calling for blame to fall on Nash at all. Everyone says that they love playing with him. But everyone’s leaving. I really do enjoy watching Nash play. However, I also think it is notable that he was always left unscatched by the media.
Nash has a very agreeable public persona. Besides Nash’s statement opposing the invasion of Iraq and his apparent revulsion to endorsements, the media lets his antics fly under the radar.
Will the Suns implode without D’Antoni? There’s still a lot of faith in Steve Nash’s playmaking skills. If the Suns do miss a step and eventually break up, I’m certain the blame will fall squarely on Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Kerr.
And for whatever reason, a chance for D’Antoni to plug his offensive scheme into the Knicks hasn’t intrigued anyone outside of New York City limits.
The good vibes have always floated about Nash, a whirling dervish of positivity not unlike his floor game. I think that by November next season, we’ll find out if it was Nash and D’Antoni or D’Antoni and Nash.
Photo courtesy of USA Today