Steve Nash and the Tyranny of Low Expectations, Part Deux

Here we go again.

If I wasn’t so sure of my sanity, and hadn’t seen this script played out before, I’d be on the horn to a shrink.  Did the Phoenix Suns cut Steve Nash?  Is he still on the team?  It’s hard to say.

For some reason, this two-time MVP has been ignored by the local and national media following each of his sub-par performances in this season’s Western Conference finals vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.  Not so long ago, the national media proclaimed Steve Nash as the BEST basketball player in all the land.  He was granted two Most Valuable Player Awards in consecutive seasons.  And, when this series began, Nash was the first face of Phoenix.

While Nash has never made much a splash in the post-season, this year was supposed to be different.  Instead, it’s more of the same.  Game 1: 13 points and 13 assists.  Game 2: 11 points and 15 assists.

Is this the BEST that a two-time Most Valuable Player can do?

It must be.

The national media has begun to act as though Steve Nash is no longer a member of the team.  He’s not mentioned in the lead stories, save for a quote or two about the height of the Lakers and the effectiveness of the Suns offense.  His photos are excluded wherever you look.  No pictures of Nash in action on America’s leading websites?  Really?

Have YOU Seen Steve Nash???

He’s missing from the Valley of the Suns.

Have YOU Seen Steve Nash???

He’s missing from ESPN’s Daily Dime.

Ten stories and hardly a mention of that underachieving two-time MVP.

It would be curious, if it weren’t so obvious.

Have YOU Seen Steve Nash???

He’s missing from Yahoo’s NBA site too.

How about the Arizona Republic?  Surely the face of the franchise is captured here — doing something, anything!!?!?!?

Have YOU Seen Steve Nash???

Not a chance.

Are they thinking what I’m thinking?

Perhaps it’s time to put Nash on the bench and let him lead the 2nd unit.

The Lakers’ “Triangle Offense” is predicated on ball movement, rather than dribbling.  Therefore, a premium is placed on the intellectual aspects of the game — reading defenses, spacing, attacking dynamic weaknesses.  It represents a shift away from the Anachronistic Manual Labor Hoops Style of Steve Nash, which relies heavily on his ability to pound the rock into submission and wear defenses down with the sheer brilliance of his handle.  It’s the equivalent of a horse-drawn buggy competing against a Lewis Hamilton-driven race car.

Perhaps the Suns would be better off passing the ball more, dribbling less, and substituting Steve Nash out of the game for another player capable of playing better man-to-man and team defense against the fast-moving Triangle Offense.  The Phoenix Suns are a team whose successes and failures have historically been measured by through its point guard.

It’s beginning to look like his time is up.  Too bad no one else wants to look.  All the press can do is suggest that Nash is not performing as poorly as he appears to be.  He’s a two-time MVP matched up against the oldest, slowest,  living, breathing point guard in the NBA…and he’s done nothing…but in Phoenix, they’re “OK” with that.

“In two games, Nash has been OK. But his 11 points and 15 assists were tarnished by five turnovers. The Lakers have dismantled the Suns’ pick-and-roll offense, and erased all those creative scoop shots Nash normally makes under the basket. While you never doubt Nash’s preparation, effort or sincerity, he is not dominating his matchup against the Lakers’ Derek Fisher, one of the few matchup advantages the Suns seemed to enjoy entering the series.”

Don’t be fooled.  Last night the two men serially depicted above combined to score 50 points (Richardson 27, Hill 23).  They led their team in scoring and did most of the grunt work (with an assist from Jared Dudley) that needs to be done in any playoff series.  Don’t think for a minute that the literal and VISUAL exclusion of Steve Nash from the coverage of these two blowout losses is accidental.  Richardson and Hill are more than capable of getting their own shot.  Do they need the offense to be set up by a player who is such a defensive liability?  Didn’t Grant Hill run the offense for the Detroit Pistons and Duke Blue Devils in his former life?

The national and local media share a common mindset – one that does not require overt collaboration or a phone call.  They’re on the same page because they suckle from the same tits.  Nash is not to be seen until the Suns are shining.  Until such time as the Phoenix Suns can muster a win, all visual representations of this series are to be restricted to the Negroes planting lillies in the field.  Today, the media are slinging bows and arrows at Amare Stoudemire — the same Amare Stoudemire whose aggressive, to-the-rim style transformed the invisible Steve Nash from an average 7-8 assist guy into an 11 assist “magician.”  Are chocolate thunderers like Stoudemire and Richardson the new face of the franchise in the whitest state in the association, or are they the new Poster Boys of Blame?  Where is Steve Nash?  Missing in action, and getting prematurely fitted for a bust in Springfield.

I don’t see much value in Nash’s performance or his favorable characterization by the media.  I wonder what Alvin Gentry thinks about all of this?  I wonder what he’ll think when he’s fired.

ADDENDUM

I found STEVE NASH!!!!

Yahoo has a catalog of 69 pictures from last night’s game.  Steve Nash, the two-time MVP and team leader of the Phoenix Suns is pictured in the 29th picture.  Take a look.

Witness Protection Program — a term formerly reserved for the “kid gloves” treatment of NBA officials for Cleveland Cavaliers star, LeBron James.  The term now applies to any media effort to mask the failings of elite players under championship pressure.  Steve is in!!!  The Washington Post also included a photo essay/slideshow of the game.  The 9 slide montage of Game 2 did not include a single image of Steve Nash.

Addendum II:

Now that Nash (averaging 12 points per game vs. the Lakers) can be juxtaposed with a guy who just scored 30 vs. the Celtics, ESPN has decided to look at BOTH underperforming stars.  Nash, as a two-time MVP going up against an aging player like Derek Fisher simply does not merit a comparison with a young, rising player like Howard facing a wholly different degree of competition.  Howard, by contrast has to contend with formidable defenders like Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace.  Nash, by comparison is on vacation.

Here is the Co-Mingled Misery Image:

What Do They Have in Common? Not Much!

Are these people serious?

Isn’t it actually Amare Stoudemire, not Nash, who is facing the Herculean challenge of this playoff series?  Doesn’t Amare have to contend with Bynum, Gasol, and Odom, while Nash need only beat the Ancient Laker off the dribble without over-penetrating or tossing the ball into the stands?  Perhaps Steve Nash should really be juxtaposed with an underachiever like Rashard Lewis.

25 comments

  1. Thank you, again. Just, thank you man. Thank you for saying what nobody else is saying, and for laying it out so calmly.
    Amare will get hte blame. But Amare is not the two-time MVP. Amare is the not the “team leader.”
    See, when Amare shines it’s because “Nash made him.” When Amare fails it’s because “Amare has no heart.”
    That’s a helluva scam right there. When I do well, it’s because of someone else, when I fail though, it’s all on me.
    Reminds me of how some folks talk abotu God. Bad stuff happens, God is horrible, good stuff happens, God had nothing to do with it.

  2. Thank you. Your co-signing is part of my sanity as well.

    At the end of the day, Nash isn’t a “bad” player, he’s just nothing like what he’s been purported to be. The media have bills to pay and people to please. That they need to lie in order to do their job is unfortunate, but that they leave such a clear printed and pictorial trail is truly blessed.

    All praise is due to the Most High.

  3. Dude, are you even watching the games?

    Yes Nash is playing so-so I agree. He did however play amazing in the San Antonio Series, including with one eye, if you remember. Derek Fisher is also slow yes, but an extremely physical defender which Nash struggles against (see Bruce Bowen).

    However, are you actually arguing that Amare should not be castrated? He’s 7.0 feet tall and gets like FOUR rebounds a game. Are you kidding Amare?! Robin Lopez grabs more boards and plays like 5 minutes a game! That’s where you have to question his effort.

    Also Channing Frye apparently checked out of these playoffs as well.

  4. Kyle
    Amare is not the “leader” of the Suns. That’s Nash’s designation.
    And he’s not playing “so-so.” Dwight Howard played at roughly the same level as Nash in game one of his series against Boston and got ROASTED by the media.
    Amare has NEVER been a good rebounder. He’s never averaged ten for a season. So, expecting him to suddenly morph into a great rebounder is asinine, and I don’t see folks expecting Nash to turn into a lockdown defender, or learn how to affect the game without overdribbling just because that would suddenly benefit his team.
    The fact is, all of the blame has been directed at Amare, while Nash has skated. But, when you look at the matchups, Amare is being asked to handle two talented 7-footers, plus contend with Odom, and still be dominant on defense.
    Nash is guarding Derek Fisher. (And Fisher is going at his neck.)
    Bottom line, if you’re hte two-time MVP, you can’t take fewer than 10 shots a game when it’s imperative that you DOMINATE your matchup in order for your team to win. You cannot let Derek Fisher be an offensive factor. You cannot be averaging more than 4 turnovers per game.
    Nash is doing all of that, and nobody is saying a mumbling word.

  5. Steve Nash is averaging 12 points and 14 assists with 4.5 turnovers.
    He’s shooting 20 percent from three.
    Amare is averaging 20 points and 4 rebounds, shooting 57 percent from the floor.
    In the first round, Amare only got 5 rebounds a game. Against the Spurs he averaged 9.5.
    Yet, despite both Nash and Amare have underwhelming series, nearly all of hte blame has been directed at Amare.
    I’ve always wondered something. Both Nash and Amare are known as poor defenders. Why is that hte Suns consistently devise ways to hide Nash on inferior players, yet demand that Amare guard talented big men?

  6. That’s true you make good points. Nash does deserve to get more criticism. I think he has been getting some slack (i.e. numerous articles highlighting the fact that he is the only MVP not to make it the finals, and analysts saying he needs to dominate more) but I agree, other players have been getting blasted undeservingly more.

    With Amare though, he shows signs of his potential so it becomes a tease. Second half of season he was a monster on the boards. San Antonio series he was getting 12-13 boards a game. So what happened? You’re telling me Tim Duncan and McDyss are easier to box out? Bynum has one leg and grabs more boards. I think the main reason Amare is getting roasted is because he wants and is demanding a max contract. So now the media is blasting him because he isn’t playing max contract ball (see Joe Johnson).

    But I agree Nash is the leader and deserves more negative press for his lack of leadership this series.

  7. Cool, we have no problem then because I think Amare is horrible on defense and I’ve never liked his inabillity to get 10 rebounds per game. I’ve never been an Amare fan mainly because I think he skates on one end of the floor.
    But, I have the same complaints about Nash and it really bothers me that everybody is piling on Amare.
    Oh, and I think Amare’s quickness and athletic ability bothered the Suns more. With the Lakers, the overall length of hte bigs, plus their skill level, is too much for Amare to overcome just by jumping and hoping.

  8. Great article Temple, and specifically the use of the pictures is quite revealing. Especially all the Lebron stuff.

    No question Nash deserves way more media blame which is always the case when Nash screws up. If you get back-to-back MVPs, you should get the lion’s share of blame. Period. It works that way for every other star. MSM is ridiculous.
    —————————-

    Now is Nash’s poor game a function of his limitations or just poor play? I think the latter. Now you will see him take about 15 shots a game from here on out instead of 9. His assists are way up despite only 32 minutes so he had been impressive there.. For me, the surprising element has been his sloppy ball-handling. I also expect that to improve. We’ll see.

  9. I meant to say “especially AFTER all the Lebron stuff”. Meaning… weren’t there pictures everywhere of a sullen-looking Lebron after every single poor game

  10. I think it’s a little of both. I talked about his limitations from a hockey standpoint in the comments section on the first post on this issue that I made. I think the weaknesses to his game are structural — even though I suspect he’ll shoot more and score more against the Lakers in Games 3 and 4.

    We’ll see how that works out. He sure gets an AWFUL lot of pub for a dude whose BEST assist season was only good for 26th all-time. It’s good to be the Nash.

  11. He gets far more pub than he deserves, but that last sentence is misleading. He has the 19th best assist season, but that is only because Stockton and Magic have 15 of those seasons ahead of him. So only five players have had better assist seasons than his best one.Here is another way to look at his hi-level assist totals from a consistency perpective. How many players have had multiple seasons with 11 or more assists per game.

    9 – Stockton
    8 – Magic
    4 – Oscar
    4 – Nash
    2 – Isiah
    2 – Kevin Johnson
    2 – CP3

    Not shabby company. And what is Amare worth? Probably about one assist per game since the year Amare was injured, he had 10.5 which was sandwiched by two 11.5 seasons.

  12. The move to Phoenix was worth about 3 or 4 assists per game. Given Amare’s prowess as a finisher and the exodus of Shawn Marion, I think he deserves more credit.

  13. gotcha on the 26…. Okay, without Marion, Amare is worth more than one assist. Nash needs at least one high flyer in the front-court.

    Phoenix system definitely helps him bigtime in his assist numbers. I just don’t know if it is transferrable that another great PG runs that Phoenix system as good as Nash (or vice versa for Nash in another system)

    What we ultimately want to see with every great PG during their career is a system and players suited to their talents. That is basically my frustration with Marbury’s career. With a better system, players, and and coaches who respected his game, I have no doubt that he could have been a Hall-of-Famer. Also, if you had Gary Payton in the triangle offense his whole career he might be just a little bit better than average.

  14. I think Marbury has as much to do with Nash’s reputation as anyone, but it’s like you’ve forgotten your own work. Marbury and Nash didn’t play with the same players in the same way. Minutes were doled out differently and the players were slightly different – but at key positions. You’ve already written that up…and I’ve seen the #’s too.

    As for Payton, I’m not sure how you’ve come to the position that he was average. I can’t wait to hear this.

  15. Yeah, that is right that Marbury has been effected by the Nash media machine. Temple, I don’t think that I articulated my last post well, so we might be missing each other.

    My frustration with Marbury’s career is not with Marbury himself, but his surrounding players, system, and unwillingness of coaches to recognize and enhance his talents. My point was that PGs deserve systems that fit their talents. I believe that Nash’s system fits his talents.

    I don’t think that Gary Payton is average at all. I think that he is a hall-of-famer. my point was that GP is NOT a spot-up shooter. That is not his strength. Half of the reason he fell off a cliff during his lone Laker year was age. The other half was the Triangle offense — a system which does not allow a PG to dominate the ball and rewards spot up shooting over slashing. That is why Phil Jackson in all his years has ever had a great PG orchestrator. It just doesn’t fit his system.

    I was using GP as just another example in an overall point that PGs flourish in systems and personell that maximize their talents. In Seattle, GP had that. In Phoenix, Nash has that. Marbury never had that. I have said in another post that I rate GP overall as a better PG than Nash. But does that automatically translate to me that GP would run the Phoenix system as well as Nash? Not necessarily. And would Nash take that Seattle team to the 96 Finals? no. He wouldn’t.

  16. Temple, on further thought… I sincerely apologize for taking focus off the critically important main thrust of your post which is “The Tyranny of Low Expectations”.

    Amare is taking an unfair beatdown, and Nash is skating on by. There is simply no question about this, and your articles clearly show this before anyone else has. Right now, this is a far more important issue than where we may differ on the finer points of just “how good” Nash is or is not or what system GP would or would not flourish in. Those PG discussions can really be had at any time, place, or post, and I look forward to a more full-blown one when appropriate. But what is going on in MSM right now is really disgusting.

    Since your articles, I have read a couple more articles that only reinforce your point:

    “So, seriously, does Amare have any pride?”

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/7272/five-big-questions-for-lakers-vs-suns-game-3

    Then there is also a Yahoo article about “Top 10 Playoff Disappointments” and no sign of Stevie Nash.

    Once again, sorry for detracting and distracting…

  17. Cool. Also, when you look back on Payton’s career, remember that even though he was often a “classic lead guard,” the Sonics ball distribution deeply involved Nate McMillan, Derrick McKey, Sam Perkins and later Detlef Schrempf. Payton’s assist totals reflect that.

    We agree on his jump shot. Sonics probably make Finals 2x during his reign if Barkley doesn’t go 44-24 in Game 7.

  18. Nice quote. I don’t have a problem with Amar’e. I think he’s the main reason Nash is rich and famous. He’s not as accomplished offensively as Dirk, but he’s a better finisher and he shoots a much higher percentage. After watching him scorch Duncan a few years ago, I was sold. Lakers are going to be sorry if they lose Game 4.

  19. Sigh…
    Amare goes OFF for 42 and 11, and yet, everybody wants to talk about Nash’s nose, his toughness and how he led the Suns to victory. Despite the fact that he had 13 points late in the fourth quarter before it became a free throw contest.

    It would drive me insane if I didn’t expect it.

  20. I feel you Big Man…..I caught it yesterday during lunch at Jersey Mike’s on BSPN and later on that evening on NBATV.

    I don’t know what it is about Nash. Is there some sort of Canadian “man-crush” these pundits have on him that we should know about? :-)

  21. Nubian

    He’s white, they think he’s short, and he’s fairly skinny.

    He looks how they think they would look if they played in the NBA with all the big, black bucks. It’s an obvious fantasy given the amazing physical tools Steve Nash has, but in most pundits minds he’s good because he works hard (just not in the weight room) and because of his innate intelligence. Most of these writers and pundits feel they are obviously smarter than the average basketball player, and they are harder workers. They could see themselves in Nash’s shoes if they got a few more breaks in life, so they want him to succeed..

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