Thursday, December 18, 2008

Suns is Still Steve Nash's Team

A new coach, a new system, new faces and a lot of revamping, 2-time NBA Season MVP Steve Nash finds himself coping up with all that has transpired in the Phoenix Suns camp. Nash, who have been thriving very well as the spearhead of the run-and-gun offense of the Suns during the D'Antoni era, have to contend with the defensive style new Suns coach Terry Porter wants instilled in the team. With former role players no longer donning the Planet Orange’s colors (Shawn Marion traded to Miami Heat. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were also released in recent trade), Nash can’t help but get being upset.

Aside from Nash, there are now only two remaining Suns who sparked a part in the running game bought by former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni – power forward Amare Stoudemire and blitzing guard Leandro Barbosa. Nash, who treated the Suns under D’Antoni as family, suddenly finds himself in a different place and time, though he is not in the Twilight Zone.

But being the leader that he is, Nash is trying to adapt into this new atmosphere where he must head a fresh team right from scratch. He is still the Suns’ court general regardless of the game plan they employ. This new Suns team may be centered on Shaquille and the new guys (Dragic, Tucker, and the rest who recently got in), the Suns is still Nash territory.

It is quite understandable that Nash is in a limbo. With a ball club that now suddenly favors heavy defense instead of the up-tempo, hypercharged streaking, there is no doubt that the Suns, Nash in particular, is in an identity crisis. How long will Nash get through his current phase before coming full circle with what is left (or added) is quite unpredictable at this point.

Most of us do not expect them to capture this year’s crown. But a lot of us (writer included) hope that by some form of miracle, they will. With a tight Western Conference race, Nash and the Suns have to go through a lot of contentions. There’s the Mavs, the Spurs, the Lakers, the Jazz. Against these quality teams and Nash still looking for some spunk, the Suns will have a long road specked with jagged cobblestones and boulders laid ahead of them.

With that being said, the Suns remain a superior team – former Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal at center, Stoudemire at power forward, new recruit Richardson providing extra firepower, and a bench bannered by Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill. Yes, the Suns is still a superior team. But the latest revamp crippled them, Nash especially. In a team where Nash has to forego a high octane play to a more deliberate, less spontaneous program, he is visibly struggling. The bad news is the whole Suns team is struggling with him.

But it is not Nash’s fault the team is performing lackadaisically. One cannot expect a running team to become an instant legitimate championship contender after forcing its leader and its main players to hold their horses within just one training camp. Not overnight. And maybe not in one season.

Nash and the former Suns under D’Antoni were amazing because they ushered an innovation unseen in basketball. But with a new, more calculated purpose, the Suns went from amazing to lackluster.

Will the Suns shine brighter again? We cannot tell for sure. But one that remains constant is that the Suns will always remain Steve Nash’s team. Not Porter’s. Not Shaq’s. And certainly not of the new guys. When we see Nash playing basketball again, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the Suns rising.

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