A few weeks back, I was on ESPN's Daily Dime Live chat and made the bold statement that the Phoenix Suns should reward Steve Nash's years of service and trade him to a contender to give him a chance to win a championship. After seeing him play live this past Sunday against the Clippers, it only reinforced that notion for me.
Nash was the first player out on the court during shootaround and was working on his footwork. Think about that for a second, a two time league MVP at age 37 is out there on the court working on his shooting and foot placement with his assistant coach while Vince Carter is no where to be found (more on this later).
After getting a few reps and getting the spacing required between his feet as well as the optimal level of lift on his jump shot; Nash proceeded to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. All net. His one miss in perhaps a 3-minute stretch came when another player took a shot that bounced off the rim and hit Nash's ball thus resulting in a miss.
By the time the game started, Nash was blending his impressive ball handling abilities with his exquisite passing to get by defenders and set up teammates. Mind you, that shooting repetition was hardly for naught, as Kid Canada shot 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-3 from three point range. Nash's final stat line:
23 points, 7 rebounds,13 assists and 1 steal.
And yet, the box score fails to capture how Nash keeps his team spirit up by always encouraging players and repeatedly finding them when open no matter how many shots in a row a teammate might miss. He is the consummate point guard in that sense; the best player on the team, playing arguably the most important position in basketball. And to top it all off, the team's leader.
If Nash is the heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns though, Vince Carter is the grim reaper. It seems fun to play with him, as he smiles a lot, interacts with referees and has a few jokes here and there to keep things light. In other words, Vince Carter is the guy you'd love to play with if you were having a pick up game and not keeping track of the score.
In a league as competitive as the NBA, where guys are trying to win ball games and get paid, Carter might just be the most frustrating player in the league. The man's body was built for basketball. When observing him, it's clearly obvious that he has the height and size to get to any spot on the floor to go at his defender. He can shoot over smaller defenders, drive past bigger ones and post up players with less strength.
Even more confusing, Carter seems to be able to make every possible basketball play. I watched him post up Eric Gordon, fake the baseline spin and then go back to the fade away jumper which he drilled with relative ease. A few possessions later, he took Gordon to the post again where the Clippers brought a hard double team at him; Carter was completely at ease with the extra attention and just casually made a cross court pass to an open teammate.
In the second half, Carter set up Gordon by having him think the turnaround fall away was coming, but he instead drop stepped towards the baseline for a tough reverse lay up that seemed to be quite easy for him.
The rest of the game, Vince Carter reminded us that he was once part of the pop group 98 Degrees as he performed his hit track with these lyrics: "Baby to you all I am is the invisible man.....". Suns and Clippers fans in attendance agreed. Basketball fans all over feel cheated by Carter given his immense talent; he's possibly as complete as Dwyane Wade (I'd even argue that he's a better shooter than Wade) and yet seems content with playing like Penny Hardaway in his late Knick days.
And this is whom the Suns brought in to play with Nash...