Whew! I never thought I'd have to write so many words defending the league MVP. And really, it's kind of sad. This is seriously detracting from the time I usually spend making fart and penis jokes. Consider this post my closing statement in the case of The Critics versus Steve Nash for MVP. Then I'm officially done with the subject.

This all started when I blasted Bill Simmons for his ongoing (and ongoing, and ongoing, and...) diatribe about Nash. Amazingly, a few days after I made that post, Simmons did an about face after one of his readers compared to Billy Packer (the same guy who once called Allen Iverson a "monkey"). But then, in true Sports Guy fashion, he tried to justify his previous criticism of Nash by heaping praise on the little Canuck's teammates. I must, of course, ridicule his efforts.

One more thing while we're here: Nash's supporting cast, even without Amare Stoudemire, is better than everyone thinks.
I'll discuss the relative quality of Nash's supporting cast in the following paragraphs. But isn't it interesting how average to mediocre players look really good when they're on a team with great players who know how and when to get them the ball? Back in the late 90s, when the Utah Jazz made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals, experts and analysts were effusive in their praise of guys like Bryon Russell, Shandon Anderson, and Howard Eisley. These guys were never top-tier players. They weren't even middle-tier players. Playing with John Stockton and Karl Malone made them look much better than they actually were, a fact that became quite obvious when they left the Jazz to take on bigger roles on other teams. I could make a laundry list of the so-so players that looked great playing with guys like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and so on. But I'm sure you get the point.

Shawn Marion is a top-25 guy in his prime.
There's no denying that. But then, so is Kevin Garnett. And Paul Pierce. And Tracy McGrady. Most NBA General Managers (and fantasy team managers) would take all three of those guys ahead of Marion in a mock draft. But having incredible talent, and putting up big-time numbers, doesn't necessarily equate to winning (hence those three guys got an early vacation this year). Marion isn't a leader. He's a solid "numbers guy." He's actually a lot like Elton Brand in that regard. Notice how Brand has been a 20/10 guy his entire career, but only got noticed (and became an MVP candidate) this season...when he was finally teamed with a competent point guard/floor leader (Sam Cassell)? And lest we forget, Kevin Garnett won his MVP and made his only significant post-season run when teamed with Cassell. One of the saddest facts in professional sports is that gaudy statistics mean much more to people than leadership. You can watch highlights of a 360 dunk, and you can look at a box score and see somebody's 20/10 line. But you can't measure leadership and inspiration. Marion doesn't give that. Nash does.

Raja Bell is the evolutionary Bruce Bowen.
So he's the "evolved" version of a guy with career averages of 6 points and 3 rebounds a game? Woo hoo. The reality is, he was a kicked away by a lottery team (Utah) that didn't see the worth in re-signing him. And don't forget: Bell was the replacement for Joe Johnson, and everybody was forecasting doom and gloom for Phoenix. In fact, many people openly scoffed at the Bell signing. Now Bell is Mr. Amazing. He had career highs in every major statistical category, but that's because of Mike D'Antoni's system and Nash's distribution, not because Bell is an "elite" player. I guarantee he wouldn't be this good if he was on, say, the Lakers.

Every team in the NBA would kill to have Boris Diaw, who can play four positions and doesn't need the ball to be effective; he's only 23 and getting better by the week. (He's a mortal lock for my annual top-40 trade value list this summer, by the way.)

Is that so? Because Atlanta wasn't exactly committing homicide to hold on to him last summer. The guy was averaging 4 points (on 42 percent shooting) and 2 rebounds last year, and he was considered a disappointment. The Hawks were more than happy to ship him off as part of the Joe Johnson trade. And it wasn't a straight-up, man-for-man transaction either. The Suns also got two future first round draft picks and a $6 million trade exception. That's how "valuable" Diaw was. Now he's playing with Nash in an up-tempo system and he's getting 13 (on 52 percent shooting) and 6. And those aren't "great" (i.e., max contract) numbers. He's playing very well in the playoffs, and now Simmons is talking about him making The Leap. This is the same Sports Guy who's usually very skeptical of guys raising their stock with some bigtime playoff performances. You know, Greg Ostertag did the same thing in '97. I'm just sayin'.

Say what you want about Thomas, but there are only a handful of forwards who can post up little guys, shoot 3s over big guys and guard both types of players. (If he hadn't been such a dog for the past nine years, he'd be in line for a $50 million contract after the playoffs.)
The Bulls thought so much of Tim Thomas they wouldn't even play him, despite a notoriously weak front line. And by the way, other teams weren't exactly beating down the Bulls' door to work out a trade for Thomas. Nobody wanted to touch him until Chicago ate his contract. As for the 26 games he played for Phoenix...well, 11 points and 4.9 rebounds a game aren't exactly all-world numbers. The fact is, he's a "big man" who can't play defense (0.3 blocks per game in nine seasons) or hit the boards (his 4.9 rebounding average with the Suns is a career high). He played really well for the Bucks in the playoffs one year, got the big contract, then loafed through the next several seasons. The Knicks were happy to dump him and the Bulls didn't even want him on the court. He fits in Phoenix because he likes to hang back and shoot jumpers, which is what they do. He gets open shots because Nash penetrates and kicks it out to him. He doesn't work anywhere else. Hell, Simmons even said he's been a dog for nine years! How do you praise and insult someone simultaneously?

And Leandro Barbosa is the most underrated player in the league -- he scores on everybody, heats right up off the bench (no small feat), plays both guard positions, carries the offense for quarters at a time...and he's only 23. You're looking at this generation's Vinnie Johnson at the very least.
Barbosa looks great...on Phoenix. I promise you, his scoring output maxes out at 10-12 PPG on any other team other than the Suns (unless he gets carte blanche on a lottery team, ala Joe Johnson). He rarely plays point guard anymore, and D'Antoni is terrified to leave him in the point position for very long. He scores on a lot of quick slashes to the hoop on fast breaks and by hitting 44 percent of his threes. He's a system player. He'll starve if he leaves Phoenix. Or if Nash leaves/retires/dies.

Here's the point: Maybe the Suns only go six deep, but they're all elite players who mesh perfectly together...
What kind of Bizarro World does Bill Simmons live on?! Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, and Tim Thomas are "elite players"?! Is tha some kind of sick joke? I don't remember ever seeing these guys on an All-Star ballot, let alone on the team itself. Elite players...psssht!! Not even close, Bill. I agree that they work very well in D'Antoni's offensive system, but they "mesh perfectly together" only because Nash is the glue that binds them.

...and they have a world-class coach who gives his players the freedom to ad-lib (like when Thomas audibled out of the set play and passed to Diaw for Wednesday's game-winner).
Mike D'Antoni is a world-class coach? I must have missed that memo. Forget about the fact that he's never won an NBA title -- the yardstick by which coaching "greatness" is typically measured -- let's look at his pre-Nash coaching record. He coached the Denver Nuggets for 50 games during the 1998 season, and he turned in a 14-36 record. In 2003, he took over a Suns team that was 8-13, and they went 21-40 the rest of the way (from five games under .500 to 19 games under .500...be still my heart). That was a team with not one but two certified 20/10 guys (Marion and Stoudemire), by the way. They add Steve Nash the next season and go from 29 wins to 62. 'Nuff said. D'Antoni has a good system, and the horses to run it, but Nash makes that system work.

I still think the Clippers should have beaten them, and I'll always wonder what would have happened if Odom pulled down that rebound in Game 6 in the Lakers series...
Magic Johnson and the rest of the '84 Lakers still think they should have beaten the Celtics that season. To this day, it still bugs the living shit out of Magic and crew. And if not for a few turnovers and a couple missed free-throws, the Lakers would have swept that series instead of losing it in seven. So you can cry sour grapes all you want. But in the end, one team wins and one team loses. Saying one team "should have beaten" another is the most meaningless statement in sports. And you, Mr. Simmons, always cry "foul" when the Colts claim they were the "better team" and "should have beaten" New England, or Pittsburg, or whoever. Now you're doing it. Hypocrite.

As for Odom's miscue, you could just as easily wonder what would have happened if the refs had called a foul on Odom or Luke Walton at the end of Game 4, or if they'd noticed Walton was standing out of bounds when he tied Nash up, or if they'd heard Nash or Diaw call for time. I mean, seriously, give me a break.


Bill Simmons isn't the only person who persists in disagreeing with me. Mr. Anonymous is back (or maybe it's a new Mr. Anonymous), and he continues to prattle on. Even though he's an idiot, I still want to address some of his points.

What about how Nash can't play defense? How do you defend Nash on that one?
It's pretty easy, actually. I decided to do a little research into Nash's defense. I've already noted that Smush Parker was horrible against him, and Cassell wasn't all that great either. But, according to some, Parker was just in a slump and the Suns used team defense against Cassell. Fine. Well, I decided to see how Tony Parker fared against Nash this season. Parker averaged a career high 19 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting. The kid was dynamite. Against Nash he had games of 19 (8-for-18), 18 (9-for-19), 29 (12-for-21), and 13 (5-for-11). So he had one game well below his average, two games at around his average, and one above average game. Only once did he shoot 50 percent or better; his percentage fell into the 40s for the other three games (a dramtic drop). You'd think a guy who scores almost 20 points per game on 55 percent shooting would have been lighting Nash up, particularly if Nash is as bad a defensive player as everyone maintains.

Nash is not a great defensive player by any stretch of the imagination. But he's not as bad as his detractors claim, either. A handful of sports writers -- like Bill Simmons -- have degraded Nash's defense and now it's become The Gospel. I did a quick cross-section of the Suns games in February (my birth month -- it's all about me), and saw that Nash held Kirk Heinrich to 0-for-7 shooting (and zero points) on February 4, held Mike Bibby to 2-for-9 shooting on February 10, held Bobby Jackson to 4-for-19 shooting on February 8, held Andre Miller to 5-for-12 shooting on February 15, and (on the second night of back-to-back games) held Rafer Alston/David Wesley to a combined 4-for-16 shooting. Now, except for Alston/Wesley, those are pretty good players. If Nash "can't play defense," these guys should be scoring at will with high percentages. Right?

So, contrary to popular belief, opposing point guards aren't always having their way with Nash. Sure, if you look you'll find games where guys play well against him. But that happens to everybody. I didn't hear the world screaming when Paul Pierce scored 39 on Kobe (a supposed defensive stopper). Lebron James isn't a gifted defender either. Other great players (and former MVPs) were less than stellar defenders: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, just to name a few. Shaq, another former MVP (and the guy some people think should have been MVP last year) is absolutely terrible in defending the screen and roll. The point is: Nash as a bad defender is both overblown and somewhat moot.
What do you have to say about the fact that Nash has been unbelievably un-clutch this playoffs?
I say you should try watching the games before saying stupid things. Facing elimination against the Lakers in Game 6 at L.A., Nash scored 32 points (including a huge three-pointer with 50 seconds to go) and dished out 13 assists. The Suns won that game in overtime. Nash hit the go-ahead bucket with under 10 seconds to beat the Clippers in Game 3 of that series. He then almost single-handedly closed the Clips out in Game 7, with 29 points and 11 assists. Less than 48 hours later, he dropped 27 and 16 on the Mavericks -- in Dallas -- and the Suns stole Game 1. And in case you didn't watch that game, the Suns were down 9 in the fourth quarter when Nash scored 10 straight points and then dished for another two (on a sick dunk by Marion) as the Suns took the lead. That one-man 10-point run, by the way, included two gut-check three-pointers and a ridiculous off-the-top-of-the-glass drive against the 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki (who fouled him without a call, by the way). There's your clutch play, son.
I think he's hit one big shot (against the clippers) so far but other than that, the dude has been nutting up in crunch time.
See above.
His two infamous turnovers against the Lakers in game 4?
I posted video and pictorial evidence that Luke Walton's foot was clearly out of bounds when he supposedly tied Nash up (thus forcing the second of the two turnovers you're referring to). And he was fouled. And he was calling timeout. Two refs were standing right there to see it. It was a totally bogus. The only thing "infamous" about that turnover was the home cooking that caused it.
How he short armed that WIDE OPEN, game tying three from the corner (which Tim Effing Thomas eventually hit about 10 seconds later) against the Lakers in Game 6? His two turnovers late in the pivotal game 5 against the Clippers? Sure you could argue that it doesn't matter because they won both those series. But in the discussion about Nash's personal performance, it can't be ignored.
In your rush to criticize Nash and point out his shortcomings, not only are you ignoring his accomplishments (which I've discussed in short above), you're ignoring some of the "un-clutch" performances of the other MVP candidates during this year's playoffs. Kobe had two games with seven turnovers, and of course his infamous 3-shot second half against the Suns in Game 7. Lebron coughed the ball up seven times in the Cavaliers 2-point loss to the Pistons in Game 6 of that series (he also shot 8-for-20). Lebron was 11-for-24 in Game 7 and the Pistons blew the Cavs out. Dirk Nowitzki scored only 11 points (on 3-for-13 shooting) the other night and Phoenix blew the Mavericks out. According to 82games.com, Kobe is 7-for-28 in "clutch shots" over the past three seasons. Everybody remembers the seven shots he hit, but what about the 21 shots he missed? During the same period, Nash was only 1-for-8 in clutch shots, but he had 6 clutch assists. Kobe had zero clutch assists, by the way.

But that's not the point. The point is, basketball players -- even the great ones -- are human. They have bad games. They miss shots. They make mistakes. They have great games and sub-par games, which are summed up to create averages. There's so much scrutiny these days, every single performance is put underneath a microscope. When a player has a bad shooting game, he's in a slump. If he turns the ball over late in the game, he choked under pressure. If you look back in NBA history, plenty of the all-time great players have dropped stink bombs during the playoffs. I could make you lists of times the Bill Russells, the Wilt Chamberlains, the Jerry Wests, the Magic Johnsons, and the Michael Jordans have blown games in the clutch. Take Jordan, for example. People remember that shot he hit against Craig Ehlo in Game 5 in 1989. What people conveniently forget is that he cost the Bulls Game 4 by missing two key freethrows in the final 30 seconds. Of course, when you win, everybody forgets about those things. Hopefully the same thing will happen for Nash some day.
And this has nothing to do with the MVP discussion. I just wanted you to realize that Nash has choked on several occassions this post season and has been picked up by his teammates in very, very important junctures.
Seriously dude...so what? The same can be said of every clutch player who ever lived. Remember when John Havlicek stole the ball to save Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals? He only had to do that because Bill Russell, the 5-time MVP (and he was MVP in 1965), the 11-time world champion, had just thrown the ball away and given the Philidelphia 76ers a chance to take the game. As far as I know, nobody took back Russell's MVP because his teammates had to bail him out after he choked. It's a team game, my friend. Teammates help each other. And considering the fact that Nash spends most of his time making his teammates better...well, they owe him one.
17 Comments:
Anonymous rfan said...
Dude, amen. Granted, I am a suns whore, but can't we all agree that Steve Nash is a pretty good basketball player, and that the lakers should be renamed the "sexual assaults"?

Also, re:Phoenix Suns Teammates. Yea, i kinda agree that the stock of diaw, thomas, bell and lb are a little elevated right now because of some really superhuman games and really entertaining series. but as an avid suns fan, im totally ok with it. These guys dont have to play every game well for me, just at least 6 more.

Anonymous CH said...
Wow. I started out reading the original smackdown of simmons, and really enjoyed it. This post was pretty good too but then I started into the response to responses below and well, it's a little overwhelming. If you hadnt mentioned Dirk as a worthy mvp over Nash, I'd be convinced you were blindly in love with little Stevie. I still suspect you're his agent.

Anonymous Nels said...
I am still loving the fact-based analysis. Simmons and the Anonymous guys are just hating for the sake of hating. Your analysis is f'n wicked.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Tell me this. What do you think would happen if a team said screw it, we'll set up whoever Steve Nash is guarding in the post and clear everyone else out? He'd get abused until they started sending double teams. The point is, performances against Tony Parker and February sized sample sets aside, Steve Nash is always going to be a defensive liability. Just like Tony Parker. Just like T.J. Ford. Why don't more teams take advantage of this? Most teams don't have the personnel. Most teams can't send out a five who can all post up, make good passes out of a double team, AND play good transition D against the Phoenix break. So basically, Nash's defensive ineffectiveness is masked by the Suns' style of play and the rarity that is a quick, post savy point guard. Essentially, I half agree with you on this point. Nash as a bad defender is a moot point. But it can't be ignored when evaluating Steve Nash, the individual. You chose to ignore it.

That said, I'm not arguing against Nash as MVP. That is why I don't mention other MVP candidates at all in the whole post. In fact, that is why I outright state, "And this has nothing to do with the MVP discussion." I don't know why you threw Kobe and LeBron out there to dispute my post. All I wanted to accomplish with my post was to play devil's advocate a little bit and come at Nash with a criticism that no one else has mentioned: his un-clutchness. And what I meant by clutch was individual CRUNCH TIME moments where you thought wow if he didn't do that just now, the Suns woulda been so screwed. So yeah, you brought up some examples of when he put together nice games when they really needed them such as the game 7s, the game 6 against the Lakers, and game 1 against the Mavs, but that's not the type of clutch I was referring to. I was referring to his play at end of close games when the pressure is so intense you can barely run because your ass hole is so tight. And with the exception of the one man 10-0 run against Dallas (which I didn't mention) and the shot against the clippers with less than 10 seconds (which I did mention), Steve Nash has been quite un-clutch. Face it, varying definitions of the word "clutch" aside, Steve Nash has made some HUGE mistakes in the playoffs this year. For example, his 2 huge turnovers in the last minute of the 1st OT against the Clips in game 5 all but sealed their fate until Raja hit that huge 3 over Daniel Ewing. Both times he dribbled into trouble, panicked, and threw the ball into the defense praying his teammate would go get it. And while you may call foul (or out of bounds) on the infamous jumpball against the Lakers, the fact remains, that was the SECOND TIME he dribbled into the SAME TRAP. These are poor decisions that your point guard, let alone your MVP point guard, should rarely if ever make with the game on the line, unless of course he is panicking.

Is it just a few mistakes? Is it just a human being human? Are these single performances put underneath a microscope? Maybe. I don't have time to go digging through box scores to figure it out. But I will say this, guards win close games for you by playing smart and taking care of the ball. And what was Phoenix's record this season and playoffs in games decided by 3 points or less?

Let me set the record straight. Although closed minded hate is a common theme on this website, I am not a Nash hater. I think he's a great player. I just saw an opportunity to put out a different perspective, an observation I came up with on my own and not read somewhere else. So before you accuse me of being ignorant of his accomplishments (why bother when you spent thousands of words on that already), just know I was only trying to balance out your content, Son.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well you cant argue with facts and you used plenty of those. Great job

Anonymous Craig said...
"As for Odom's miscue, you could just as easily wonder what would have happened if the refs had called a foul on Odom or Luke Walton at the end of Game 4, or if they'd noticed Walton was standing out of bounds when he tied Nash up, or if they'd heard Nash or Diaw call for time. I mean, seriously, give me a break."

Give ME a break! Let's get off the Game 4 PHX versus the Lakers notion. It's an old argument. Granted, the refs missed the call, but Phoenix should NEVER been in that situation. They had the game in the bag and straight blew it. Bringing out the Phoenix-Zapruder film showing Luke Walton with his foot out of bounds should not be an issue if Nash didn't get the yips with that game on the line.

(Don't let the Kobe/Lakers hatred fog up your court vision. Though being a Laker fan and one who was at game 4, I admit that I'm a little sensitive to the topic.)

Other than that, Nash's play this post-season speaks volumes about his MVP award. As great as he was last season in the Dallas series, he's even better now. My only beef is that he plays ZERO defense, but neither did Magic.

Nash's offense does add pressure to his opponent and would cause their numbers to drop a little. Stats may show that certain players' numbers to drop when matched up to Nash, but to the naked eye Nash has never been a good defender. (I prefer the naked eye argument as opposed to the Hollinger argument) He's not strong enough nor does he have the lateral quickness to stick with many opposing point guards. Also, as he gets older, he saves his energy on defense. Nothing wrong as long as he's productive on O.

(BTW - Smush Parker is COMPLETELY worthless, I saw him 40 plus times and his basketball IQ ranks up there with Olden Polynice. He was CUT by PHX and DET last season. That speaks volumes for Micth Kupchak's ineptness that the 17th best player for PHX and DET was a starter for the Lakers in 05-06)

The Phoenix front office needs to get some credit for the roster they put together. The brought in European style players to fit into D'Antoni's system. Their top six can all hit the open jumpers and have decent handles.

Also, I have to give D'Antoni credit. He runs a very simple offense that works perfectly for the Suns. They run the screen and roll constantly and because all 5 can hit open jumpers, the defense is forced to switch on the screen. Diaw is benefitting the most from the offense by posting up the guards that switched off Nash after the screen. And because all five are dangerous beyond the arc, nobody dares to double Diaw because they'll give up the easy three.

Also, what coach in the NBA (besides Doug Moe and Paul Westhead) would make the adjustment of "shoot it quicker" from game to game. It's a breath of fresh air to see a team sprint down-court, set up with proper spacing and take a good jumper within 7 seconds. After a decade of slug hoops (Van Gundy, Riley's Knicks and Heat, Larry Brown and Fratello), props to D'Antoni for not overcoaching and having faith in this player's talent and the system. The will help down the road for Phoenix as free agents will line up to play their up-tempo style. Mix-in Nash creating the open jumpers and every player's offensive numbers (and dollar$) will jump up.

It's been a long time since I've seen a starting five so adept at perimeter shooting. Maybe the last team was the 1992 Cavaliers that eliminated Boston in the Semis. I remember Larry Nance, Hot Rod Williams and Mark Price hitting every singe outside shot in game 7. I SO wanted Bird and the C's to win that one just to see how they would fare against the Bulls. I hated that Cavs team!

Great (and very thorough) analysis on the Nash MVP argument. I still think Billups should have won the award, but if there was a Tournament MVP, Nash is it.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
*Sigh*...I really wanted to be done with this, Craig. But I respect you too much to ignore your comments out of hand...

Give ME a break! Let's get off the Game 4 PHX versus the Lakers notion. It's an old argument. Granted, the refs missed the call, but Phoenix should NEVER been in that situation. They had the game in the bag and straight blew it. Bringing out the Phoenix-Zapruder film showing Luke Walton with his foot out of bounds should not be an issue if Nash didn't get the yips with that game on the line.

You're missing the point, Craig. The only reason I brought that issue up again is because Simmons said, "I'll always wonder what would have happened if Odom pulled down that rebound in Game 6 in the Lakers series." His inference, then, is that the Lakers would have won if one play had gone differently. My reply was, well, the Nash play could have gone differently (and Maybe the Suns win in 6), a lot of things COULD have gone differently to change the eventual outcome of the series. I just don't see the point of his speculation regarding Odom's missed rebound. He, or I, could just as easily point out a half dozen OTHER momentum changing plays that, if they hadn't happened, would have made the whole thing pan out differently.

Other than that, Nash's play this post-season speaks volumes about his MVP award. As great as he was last season in the Dallas series, he's even better now. My only beef is that he plays ZERO defense, but neither did Magic.

And neither does Dirk. Or Lebron. I mean, I wish Nash's D was better, but I wish Bird's had been better too. And here's another thing people forget. Jordan was supposedly this great, lock-down defender. Well, go back and watch those last three Bulls championship runs. Phil protected Mike by giving him easy defensive assignments. Take 1998, for instance. Know whom he guarded in the Indiana series? Chris Mullin, who was so old and slow at that point he could barely get around. Know whom he guarded against Utah? Greg freakin' Foster. It was Pippen who was given the tough defensive assignments during those years, not Jordan. But people forget these things.

Nash's offense does add pressure to his opponent and would cause their numbers to drop a little. Stats may show that certain players' numbers to drop when matched up to Nash, but to the naked eye Nash has never been a good defender. (I prefer the naked eye argument as opposed to the Hollinger argument) He's not strong enough nor does he have the lateral quickness to stick with many opposing point guards. Also, as he gets older, he saves his energy on defense. Nothing wrong as long as he's productive on O.

I agree. I also think that Nash's opponents get lured into playing his style, and therefore end up taking a lot of quick jump shots, which may not be to their strength.

Also, I have to give D'Antoni credit. He runs a very simple offense that works perfectly for the Suns. They run the screen and roll constantly and because all 5 can hit open jumpers, the defense is forced to switch on the screen. Diaw is benefitting the most from the offense by posting up the guards that switched off Nash after the screen. And because all five are dangerous beyond the arc, nobody dares to double Diaw because they'll give up the easy three.

I think D'Antoni is doing a good job, in general, and has the personnel to run his offense. But the key was Nash. He tried to do with with Stephon Marbury the season before Nash got there, but the Suns' offense just doesn't work unless you have a pass-first point guard who can penetrate (thus creating for others) and shoot a high percentage from the outside. Nash was made for that offense, and vice versa. Kevin Johnson, another former Sun, would be great for that offense (although he wasn't a terribly gifted three-point shooter).

Also, what coach in the NBA (besides Doug Moe and Paul Westhead) would make the adjustment of "shoot it quicker" from game to game. It's a breath of fresh air to see a team sprint down-court, set up with proper spacing and take a good jumper within 7 seconds. After a decade of slug hoops (Van Gundy, Riley's Knicks and Heat, Larry Brown and Fratello), props to D'Antoni for not overcoaching and having faith in this player's talent and the system. The will help down the road for Phoenix as free agents will line up to play their up-tempo style. Mix-in Nash creating the open jumpers and every player's offensive numbers (and dollar$) will jump up.

I agree. And I think Avery Johnson has done a similar job with the Mavericks. The Mavs are a breath of fresh air too, and (despite what these posts might make you think) the Mavs are my favorite team right now. They're just a complete team. And Dirk is playing better than anybody in the world right now (his 11 point game notwithstanding). If only he weren't so damn ugly, he might develop more of a following.

Great (and very thorough) analysis on the Nash MVP argument. I still think Billups should have won the award, but if there was a Tournament MVP, Nash is it.

Thanks. I (unfortunately) have to disagree with those last two comments, though. I think Dirk is the tournament MVP. I mean, his numbers are incredible. He's only failed to score 20 once. His rebounding is at an elite level. I'll have to review the numbers, but I think he's only missed double-figure rebounds once and he's had several games in the high teens. He's just been phenomenal. He's even passing more.

I also wouldn't have given the MVP to Billups. The Pistons have the best starting five in basketball. Sure, they have a weak bench, but they don't lean on Billups (except when they need a big shot) the way the Suns lean on Nash, or the way the Cavs lean on Lebron. My top three would have been Nash, Lebron, Dirk...in no particular order.

Blogger laura said...
i think you should adopt a new policy of only allowing comments with names attached to them. it's too easy for people to write comments they won't back up by using the "anonymous" tag. i mean, it's easy enough to come up with a fake name for a handle. but when someone uses anonymous, they can come back and post again, claiming to be a different anonymous.

the way i see it, if you want your words to be taken seriously, be prepared to back them up--so you better leave a name. if you can't be bothered to leave a name by your words, then your words don't matter.

also, requiring a blogger acct (it's not hard to get one, it's actually very easy) will cut down on commentors with nothing to say because they won't chance leaving a stupid comment with their handle attached to it. when they're anonymous, they can say what they want without any kind of responsibility.

i wanted to email this suggestion, but i didn't see your email. anyway, i think turning on the blogger acct function is an excellent filter, in addition to comment moderation, of course.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
sir, i salute you!

now about that laundry list.......

Anonymous Stevo said...
I like when people critisized Nash's playoff numbers last post, you say the numbers dont count. Then in this post, when people critisize him for his clutchness and defense, you go running back to the numbers. Do i smell a hypocrite?

Anyways, all that dosent matter. Despite your slightly biased argument thats riddled with holes, I do agree with you.

Anonymous Stevo said...
I like when people critisized Nash's playoff numbers last post, you say the numbers dont count. Then in this post, when people critisize him for his clutchness and defense, you go running back to the numbers. Do i smell a hypocrite?

Anyways, all that dosent matter. Despite your slightly biased argument thats riddled with holes, I do agree with you.

Blogger Pradamaster said...
To me, this whole thing is about a change in the application of the Most Valuable Player. For the first time since Bill Walton in 1978, the MVP award is being given to a player who's value goes beyond his numbers and his "holycrapness." Consider that Nash in 2004 was the first MVP to average less than 20 points a game since Walton.

The way writers have started to apply the definition of MVP has changed significantly in the last two years. If this MVP was given out 10 years ago, it would have been a battle between LeBron and Kobe, with Dirk running a distant third and Nash being nowhere in the conversation. But for the first time, writers are considering one's true value beyond their statistics or their visible dominance.

The problem with Simmons' point is that he fails to consider this. He's lived in an era in the NBA where the MVP is the one that puts up the best all-around numbers and the one that looks like the most dominant player on the court. He can't accept the fact that LeBron or Kobe, who clearly look and act the part of an MVP, lost out to a guy in Nash that doesn't play like a superstar. In a way, Simmons is off the hook, because he's lived through an NBA system that previously gave the MVP to the guy who perceived dominance on the floor. But in another way, his error is more egregious, as he is stuck living in the past.

Regardless, these last two years are the first time I can remember where the MVP is defined by "value" rather than "outstanding achievement and superstar quality." Simmons is still viewing this through the eyes of "outstanding achievement and superstar quality." That, to me, explains this whole beef with Nash.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You've done an excellent job of defending Nash; however, a couple of your points are overstated.

1.) You are slighting his supporting cast severly. The notion that Nash is singlehandedly responsible for his teammates' success is just wrong. One can make that argument about players like Bell and Thomas, but it is dishonest to say that about other players. Steve Nash doesn't help Marion play tough D, or rebound like someone 4 inches taller, nor can he give Diaw the eyes in the back of his head that he seems to have sprouted this season, or make Barbosa blow past defenders (while Nash is on the bench). Yes, the Suns were undermanned (with a healthy Amare, they would have smashed every single Western conference opponent), and it is admirable what they have been able to do. And yes, Nash deserves a lot of that credit, but don't bash the rest of the Suns to make Nash look better.

2.) In championing Nash's cause, you are making excuses for his attrocious defense. It's not just that he's not a lock down defender; it's that he's a defensive liability. Your analysis of his defensive performance against "good" opponents is the worst part of your argument, mostly because you chose players (Parker, Bibby, Alston, Miller) known for being streaky shooters and occasionally falling into the habit of taking ill-advised shots. And you see what the Dallas guards did to him (and what they are about to do to the equally defensively attrocious zombie Glove and White Chocolate (worst nickname ever)).

And you are right to criticize the defense of the other MVP candidates (Lebron, Dirk, Shaq, Kobe), but you're talking about their defensive weaknesses or blind spots. Nash is a defensive black hole. These other players (save for maybe Dirk) CAN play good defense, and while they can be lax at times, they can also make up for mistakes by, for example, swatting the shit out of a defender that they let scoot by. Nash doesn't even play the passing lanes that well. A competent defender would average twice the steals Nash does.

Now I don't think that you are motivated by anything other than respect for Nash as a player; however, he won back to back because:

1.) He's a fantastic player.

2.) A few of the players who should have won it were injured (Duncan, Amare, Shaq), and the ones who weren't injured (Lebron, Kobe) have been so hyped by the media for their individual play, there has been a bit of a backlash.

3.) His team exceeded expectations 2 years in a row.

and 4.) He's white. Not just white, but NOT European and white (though Dirk is climbing). Not just white, but relatively small and white. Not just white, but "normal"-looking (read: reminds white sports writers of themselves).

I understand why this makes some people uncomfortable: sports people like to think of themselves as socially liberal and colorblind, at least when it comes to sports; but this is bullshit. Race is as important to athletes' appeal as anything else. To deny that the blackness of Jordan and Lebron and the whiteness of Bird and Nash doesn't factor into their appeal is ridiculous.

In our culture there is a love-hate relationship with young black men, and the sports world is no different. While for most major American sports, sports fans have no choice but to marvel at the feats of young black male athletes, a lot of the fans, especially the ones who are getting on in years, despise what they see as a spoiled, overpaid, selfish, disrespectful athletic culture and they subconsiously or overtly attach this to young black men. Whenever you hear people outraged at athletes, it's ALWAYS a black man...ALWAYS.

This is where Nash fits in. Take the folks who hate the "hip hop" (whatever that means) influence on sport, give them a humble "every(white)man" who can actually play!!!! and you have your back to back MVP. Not so much a positive pick than a protest pick for people who want to restore "integrity" (white), "intelligence" (white), "selflessness" (white), "fundamentals" (white), and "gutsiness" (white) into American professional sports.

I'm not accusing you of thinking like this. I think that your motivations for supporting Nash are simply that he is the head of a very good team with an exciting style of play; I'm merely pointing out the obvious, as well as showing why some people may take greater issue with this selection. This is not a knock against Nash or his whiteness, as much as it is a knock against sportswriters and their dishonest, revisionist, holier than thou air that is in many ways bound up with race.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wow anon@11:47, project much?

I disagree with Nash as MVP and think it should have gone to Dirk. To me it was clearly between Dirk and Lebron with Dirk being much more consistent through the whole season and not just the last couple of months giving Dirk the edge.

The only MVP candidate that I see as "spoiled, overpaid, selfish, disrespectful" is Kobe, and thats because he is a confirmed dick. And he raped a girl. But thats just me getting all MLK'ish and judging him by the content of his character. How dare I? All that said, its not why he wouldn't be my MVP, but in the #2 slot between him and Lebron, I think Lebron did more with less and was therefore more valuable. Plus in this super tight race, Kobe got himself suspended and basically cost his team 3 games which might have been the difference in playoff seeding, even homecourt advantage. To my knowledge, Dirk nor Lebron did that.

My White Devil picks:
1. Dirk
2. Lebron
3. Kobe
4. Elton Brand
5. Nash

In fact, of the 5, the one I would most like to have to my house for dinner is EB. He seems like a genuinely nice guy as well as an elite player.

The only one concerned first with race is YOU, but because you feel that way you imagine EVERYONE must feel that way.

"Race is as important to athletes' appeal as anything else." Untrue you racist. Their performance and personalities are far more important. And its not even close. Nationality can come into play for foreign players, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that Turkey going wild for Memo isn't quite what you are referring too.

"Whenever you hear people outraged at athletes, it's ALWAYS a black man...ALWAYS." Untrue you racist. People are outraged at the Duke Lacrosse team, and will still be even if they are found to be not guilty of rape. There was plenty of outrage over John Rocker's comments. WORDS. They threw batteries at him for WORDS. Given time I could think of more, but because you said ALWAYS twice, you already look pretty foolish in the eyes of anyone reading this so I won't push the point.

Its a good thing for the world that you have the power to read people's minds and know why they take the actions they do. The only one "holier than thou" art you, and the only racist art you as well.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"The only one concerned first with race is YOU, but because you feel that way you imagine EVERYONE must feel that way."

^^^^^

Not only am I not concerned with race first, When did I accuse anyone of being concerned with race first?


"Their performance and personalities are far more important. And its not even close. Nationality can come into play for foreign players, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that Turkey going wild for Memo isn't quite what you are referring too."

^^^^^
Obviously nationality is important, but it usually matters in contexts in which ones nationality is greatly underrepresented. This works for other characteristics too (hence, Tiger, Wie, Danica). We're talking about a sport in which the vast majority of the elite players are American.

"People are outraged at the Duke Lacrosse team, and will still be even if they are found to be not guilty of rape. There was plenty of outrage over John Rocker's comments. WORDS. They threw batteries at him for WORDS. Given time I could think of more, but because you said ALWAYS twice, you already look pretty foolish in the eyes of anyone reading this so I won't push the point."

^^^^^^^^^^^
Please come up with more examples, because these are terrible. First of all, the Duke Lacrosse team is under scrutiny because they are accused of RAPE--they are not being attacked as athletes per se (I might add that sportswriters have not come out solidly against them, and their jerseys are still selling like crack on the internet: that doesn't sound like outrage to me). And Rocker's words had nothing to do with him as a player or his sport. These situations transcend sport. Please rack your brain and think about instances in which athletes as athletes and businessmen (not as rapists or hate-mongers or whatever else) are buried by the media, and you'll find one thing in common: they're young, black men. It's not just their blackness, or just their youth, or just their maleness; it's all of it together. That's why it doesn't make sense to think of the antagonism toward them as racism proper.

"Its a good thing for the world that you have the power to read people's minds and know why they take the actions they do. The only one "holier than thou" art you, and the only racist art you as well."

^^^^^^^^^^

If I could read minds, do you think I'd be arguing with the likes of you on a basketball blog?

The notion that someone who recognizes race is a racist is a common assertion of the well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided (usu. white) American. Merely seeing race--unavoidable for someone who grew up in America--does not make one racist. Colorblindness is a sham: it's dishonest, and it's largely responsible for a lot of the racial problems that reasonable people (non-racists) have. You obviously disagree with this claim, and that's fine. I'm just spelling it all out, and I'm doing it without calling you (or anyone else) a racist.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
you try too hard and post propaganda and use witty metaphors and stuff like that to make you seem credible

Anonymous The Pest said...
Hmm... you need to read this article on Steve Nash. It's awesome.

Part 2: http://www.fullcourtpest.com/2012/01/in-defence-of-steve-nash-part-1.html

Part 2: http://www.fullcourtpest.com/2012/01/in-defence-of-steve-nash-part-2.html

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