NBA Offseason Analysis, Part 2: Keep your enemies closer.
By: Marcus Ferro
Other than Karl Malone, there is one other multiple MVP that has not won an NBA Championship, and that same player is the only multiple MVP to never even reach the finals. That player is Steve Nash. It would seem as though that this blemish on Nash’s resume would never be erased, until the 38-year-old Canadian changed his fortune on America’s Independence Day by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers
Nash was drafted to the Phoenix Suns in ’96, where he served as a backup for future Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd, for two seasons. After being traded to Dallas in 1998, Nash steadily improved making his first All-Star appearances in 2002 and 2003. After being all but discarded by Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, Nash signed with the Phoenix Suns in free agency in 2004. Nash thrived in Phoenix’s run-and-gun system. In his first two seasons with the Suns, Nash exploded for one of the best statistical stretches an NBA point guard has ever had with an average of 17.2ppg, 11apg, shooting .508 from the field, 436% from the arc and .905% from the stripe, earning back-to-back MVPs along the way. The Suns had went from the basement to contenders and Nash transformed from second-tier All-Star to one of the greatest and most exciting point guards of all-time.
Despite Nash’s individual success, he was never able to lead his team out of the West, getting as far as the Western Conference Finals three times during his tenure in Phoenix. Phoenix would face some familiar opponents each postseason, most notably, their division rival, Los Angeles Lakers. The Suns and Lakers squared off three times since 2005. The first meeting was a 7 game series with Phoenix coming back from down 3-1 to advance, in 2007 Phoenix would win the second matchup in 5 and three seasons later in 2010, the Lakers would get their revenge as Kobe Bryant torched the Suns on the way to their second consecutive NBA title. The animosity between these two teams, and their best players was no secret. Kobe is on record saying that he hates the Phoenix Suns and Nash said just weeks before the deal went down that it would be difficult for him to put on a Lakers jersey.
So why did Nash sign with the one team that he hated most? It’s simple, he wanted to win. He could have went to Toronto, who were about to unload their roster to clear cap space for a 3 year $36million contract, but who honestly wants end a Hall of Fame career playing for the Raptors (besides Hakeem Olajuwon)? He could have went to the Knicks, arguably from top to bottom, the league’s most talented team; but his old coach, Mike D’Antoni is gone, and there aren’t enough basketballs on the planet to facilitate the all of the Knicks gunners; Nash’s presence may have only exacerbated that problem.
The Lakers, however are winners. They win, a lot, more than any other team in the modern-day NBA, and Kobe Bryant is the best winner of this generation. Sure, they are old, and hardly set-up for a dynasty, but Nash only needs one good run to capture that elusive ring (see also, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki); and Kobe, despite going on his 17th season, amassing a total of 5 championships, is just as hungry for number 6 as he was for number one (see also: Michael Jordan). The duo could be as good as any backcourt there ever was for a single season, and depending on their success, could be the greatest backcourt ever. This move may not be making Nash the most money, or giving him the best opportunity to bolster his career numbers, but Nash wants to win; so naturally, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with basketball’s best franchise and the sport’s most accomplished player. Nash’s move to team-up with his archenemy may be surprising, but never underestimate an athlete’s desire to win.