Aching finish can’t hurt Nash’s legacy


VIDEO: Steve Nash to miss entire 2014-15 season with nerve issue

This changes nothing, and this changes everything.

Steve Nash was locked in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer years ago, one of the stars of a generation and one of the standout point guards of any era. So, the agonizing slow leak into retirement — after Thursday’s announcement of Nash missing the entire 2014-15 season with a nerve issue — of what will become three consecutive seasons with serious injuries will not dent his legacy. He got old, not bad.

But what an insightful few years it was. We didn’t get to see Nash close to his best in L.A., what the Lakers hoped for when they sent a couple first-round picks, including the choice that is top-five protected in 2015, and a couple seconds to Phoenix in July 2012, but it was the best of Nash in some ways. The passion to play, the determination to work back instead of taking early retirement and a golden parachute — it was as telling in a strange way as any of the countless accomplishments on the court.

He was always faking people out like that. Nash didn’t have much of a future coming out of high school in the charming Vancouver suburb of Victoria, and then he turned one NCAA Division I scholarship offer, to Santa Clara, into being drafted in the first round and a career that would have reached Season 19 in 2014-15. He didn’t have the athleticism to hang with the speed point guards, and then he surgically steered the Phoenix jet offense of the Seven Seconds Or Less Days, running everyone else into the ground as it turned out. Now, at what by every indication is the end, although the Lakers have only said he is done for the season, Nash discovered a new way to impress.


VIDEO:
Relive Steve Nash’s top 10 career assists

He had done it in most every other manner before: back-to-back MVPs, eight-time All-Star, the only player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent from the line four times. That’s two more than Larry Bird and three more than everybody else, third all-time in total assists, first all-time in free-throw percentage with at least 1,200 makes.

And if anything, Nash was underrated on offense — which is saying something considering the praise he earned. But to trigger one of the game’s lethal pick-and-roll games (particularly with superb finisher Amar’e Stoudemire) and also succeed in the high-octane offenses of coaches Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry as the Suns reached the Western Conference finals is a note few point guards can reach. He was never a good defender who could get in the conversation with, say, John Stockton or Gary Payton as all-time great two-way point guards. But Nash with the ball was still a clinic.

That’s Nash’s direct impact. His final legacy, though, won’t be known for years, maybe even for a decade.

The wave of Canadian players into the Draft the last few seasons? That is partly on him, too. Probably not to the extent of the expansion Raptors taking root in Toronto and the expansion Grizzlies in Vancouver. Maybe not even equal to the impact of Vince Carter winning the slam-dunk crown at All-Star weekend 2000 as a Raptor, given the impact of that event on kids and the basketball explosion in Toronto in particular.

But the guy who hadn’t played for a team in Canada since high school became the Nash-ional hero.

There’s Andrew Wiggins. Anthony Bennett. Kelly Olynyk, from British Columbia. Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas.

Stauskas was 14 or 15 — he doesn’t remember exactly — and part of a new breed of Canadian kids, the ones who didn’t grow up automatically playing hockey. His AAU coach, Anthony Otto, had known Nash for years and arranged for Stauskas and another prospect, Kevin Zabo, to spend a couple days being tutored by Nash in Phoenix. Two star-struck teenagers, a future Hall of Famer and an empty gym.

“I got a chance to work out with him and see him up close and the fundamentals he had,” Stauskas said. “For me, it was just like, ‘He’s not quick, he’s not strong, he doesn’t have a crazy build or anything and here he is a two-time MVP.’ You’re like, ‘Man, this is possible. If you work hard and do what he does, this is really possible.’ ”

There were times Zabo, now at San Diego State, and Stauskas, now a Kings rookie as a lottery pick, stopped their individual work and watched Nash — now also general manager of the Canadian national team —  in another part of the gym, for as long as 20 minutes. Just watching the Suns guard go through drills.

A technician like Nash had that kind of draw. It was hard not to stop and watch him at every opportunity, even when he played with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas or Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal in Phoenix or Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles. The chance to watch is almost certainly over as age claims another victim, but the disappointment of the hobbling finish for someone who had earned the right to go out on his terms doesn’t matter to the legacy.

It changes nothing. And everything.

44 Comments

  1. squala96 says:

    Nash should have called it a day even before he wore purple and gold. While he may have fancied chances of a championship in LA, he just cannot hold up physically anymore. He sat way more games than he played as a Laker, and when he’s on court, he hardly made a mark. Now, he’s nothing more than a freeloader, making over $9M/year without providing any proper service.

  2. freeze3000 says:

    Geography lessons for Scott Howard Cooper … “…charming Vancouver suburb of Victoria…”, lol

  3. Unkaned says:

    Nothing lasts forever. But we’ll never again see someone with Nash’s extraordinary stop-on-a-dime balance, someone who could penetrate and never have to give up his dribble while surrounded by opposing players in the paint, and also shoot this well. Never. Never.

  4. Bastion B says:

    Very sad news. Loved watching Nash run that Phoenix offense in the 00’s. Can’t believe it’s been 10 seasons since he rejoined the Suns and took the league by storm. The NBA has become such an offense-orientated league now, and I think Nash has a great deal to do with that. 2 time MVP (and much deserved contrary to what some deluded fans think) and one of the greatest floor generals of all time. Nash will be missed by the league. Sad to see all these guys drafted in the 90’s slowly fading away. The 90’s wil always be the golden era to me.

  5. Steve Nash was an artist as a point guard. He played like a maestro on the court. A soccer magician on the basketball court. I will miss him and hope I can see him play one last time next year. Hate to see him retire like this.

  6. "Smart" NBA fan says:

    so much disrespect here.man i dont know whats gotten into you all. i am a Lakers fan and im proud to see Nash on or off our roster paid 10 mil or not. Your a legend Nash and i really enjoyed your time here in LA just like Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and even Lamar Odom regardless of his life off court. Odom on court handled his business and was a fantastic basketball player he let women ruin his skills and confidence. Nash age might have caught up but at least you tried to do it. If he does read these comments id tell him to live your life and ignore half these disrespectful high school teens. Bc you know 99 pct of yall commenting are ages 10-19. im 30 years old and i really loved seeing good point guards control the game and feed the bigs. Lakers pride Kobe and the black mamba are going to the end….
    ~disrespectful fans feel free not to reply or comment me back~

  7. OC says:

    Man; this is sad news. One of the great point guards is out for good. Father time is taking what is his.
    I read here many comments about him taking the Lakers money and bla, bla, bla, bla… You know what; do your research and; check how many players in the many years of NBA existence have earn 1+ MVP and then you will realize the caliber of a player that Nash was… If the Lakers decided to pay him then good for him business is business and at the end of the day the organizations almost never loose, one way or the other they always get back their ROI. Kobi may be next!

  8. LB says:

    @ Dessert11Eagle – Steve Nash wasn’t “awarded Kobe’s MVP award in ’07” Nash deserved it.

    @ cmon son – Americans are too busy being obsessed with themselves to care about anyone else.

  9. Eaglos says:

    Meanwhile he is hurting Lakers’ salary cap. He is competing with Bynum on who will take more money without playing.

  10. Dessert11Eagle says:

    I am from StL. I don’t think Nash’s achy finish hurts his legacy. His “I want the money” comment hurts his legacy. I think less of Nash now as he is stealing money by collecting his pay check this year while unable to fulfill his obligation. Last year was bad enough. 1 fan thinking less of a player effectively changes his legacy by 1 fan. If a Million Lakers fans think less of Nash to any degree, than I believe his Legacy is effectively changed.

    I understand Nash and the Lakers have a contract. I understand businesses is business. I also understand Ethics. If a person is unable to fulfill their side of a contract, then allow the contract to be made VOID. It’s simple right and wrong. Nash knows he won’the play this season, but won’t retire until seasons end and his checks are cleared. Nash is not hard up for money. Nash will make plenty of money in the future. Nash deserves 9.7 Million dollars worth of every “Nashty” comment a fan wants to make. That is also part of the business.

    If you want to be remembered as a good guy, you gotta do good guy things. Right?

  11. Scisca says:

    Respect, one of the best player of his generation. I’m still hoping to see him suit up by the end of the season… who knows… For me it isn’t over until Steve himself says it is. Though I’d rather see him being traded to SAS, so he can win finally get that ring, even if playing only 5-8 minutes per game in the playoffs. He would still be productive with his shooting.

  12. Atown says:

    Hey Scott, Victoria, Nash’s hometown, is the capital city of BC and nowhere near Vancouver.
    Was your Google maps blotted out north of Seattle down there?
    I mean it is a little insulting considering he’s the best CDN player in history.
    It’s like saying Sacramento is a charming suburb of San Fran, or San Diego a charming suburb of LA.

  13. Ramso says:

    Really sad to hear that! it appears that Nash career is now over

  14. MrNBA says:

    Nash should’ve won a title back in ’07 if it wasn’t for the dirty play of Robert Sorry of the Spurs. Talk about a dent in legacy, that’s Sorry’s legacy. Stealing a title via a dirty play.

    • Dessert11Eagle says:

      Nash was awarded Kobe’s MVP award in ’07 I believe. He’ll have to make due.

      • Bastion B says:

        Okay first off, Dirk was MVP in 2007. And Nash wasn’t awarded ‘Kobe’s MVP award in ’06, which is no doubt what you’re getting at. Nash deserved both of those MVP awards in ’05 and ’06 and those who voted clearly believed that as well. Kobe had a great season in ’06, setting scoring records and dominating individually. However the Lakers didn’t win 50 games and were 7th seed. Okay, some say Kobe had to lead a team consisting of Kwame, Smush etc, but he also had Odom, and Phil Jackson on the sidelines. Nash had to lead a Suns team consisting of House, Bell, James Jones, an unhealthy Kurt Thomas etc, and without Amare for the season. Kobe was great, Nash was better because he made his teammates into winners and kept the Suns atop the conference’s elite. That’s what MVP’s do. Sorry for the long comment. 🙂

  15. Jack says:

    Nash should just retire…. seriously!

  16. Milen says:

    It changes the fate of the miserable (at the moment) Lakers, eating up $10 mln of their cap space while it was more than obvious that he was not going to make it… now this is a huge stain on his legacy in my opinion. He should have just retired and let them rebuild sooner

    • illone says:

      Pretty sure they Lakers will get ‘tax break relief’ since he is out because of injury. That said, not sure who’s still out there worth $10 mil to bring in.

  17. epiloni says:

    Oh man… this is sad, sad news. Always been a great pleasure seeing him play, so effortlessly efficient.

    I can just wish good luck for him on his future endeavours!

  18. GreggB says:

    It’s sad to see him go out like this but he was a great point and shooting guard. Would have liked to see him and Kobie play togather.

  19. pffff says:

    A man who changed his era, the pick n roll master, the offense Houdini. Who now helped ruin the Lakers (they’ll be fine failing 10 years, we won’t cry) You’ll be greatly missed.

  20. max says:

    well said. nevertheless, it’s a shame snash had to go out this way. he shoulda retired with his guns blazing.

  21. Kam Warm says:

    Uhh…Victoria is not a subburb of Vancouver.

  22. RafalP says:

    Good luck, Steve!

  23. KB24 says:

    He was never a food defender who could get in the conversation with, say, John Stockton or Gary Payton. Replace food with good

  24. Eaglos says:

    It cannot hurt his legacy but surely hurts his IQ.

  25. Helios says:

    Would love to see Nash just announce his retirement so Phoenix can retire his jersey as quick as the Nets did for Kidd. He’s got nothing left to prove and the Lakers ain’t getting him a ring. Salute to you Steve and thanks for the great run you gave the Suns. Maybe he should become a pick ‘n’ roll coach ’cause no one is running it like he did…

  26. FunkyAxl says:

    Retire already man, don’t make fool of yourself for the money.

    Purple n’ Gold 4 ever!

  27. Skrutz says:

    Victoria isn’t exactly a Vancouver suburb, by the way… it’s kinda… on an island a while away.

  28. mr.Macphisto says:

    You were my favorite player of the last decade.Its over Steve…Enjoy your retirement,you deserved it…Best of luck to you and your family.

  29. another cavs fan says:

    He had an awesome career and now he’s old…

    Cry me a river…

    Or better yet, just cry me an article…

  30. sweet C says:

    sad to see him go like this.

  31. superinho says:

    ahhahahahaa

  32. Jared says:

    Great career, but its caught up to you. Father time is unkind. See: . #blessing in disguise.
    Thunder Up!

  33. NASH AGAIN says:

    As a Lakers fan this makes me sad. I’m not disrespecting Nash but this situation is not right. There should be some sort of clause in the contract of an older player basically allowing them to retire still get paid there contract wage, if they cannot play the season out. To make room in the salary cap for players who are actually willing and able to play.

    • Has says:

      As long as he doesn’t play a game in the season insurance should cover his salary for the Lakers. Unless his contract wasn’t insured which I doubt

    • cmon son says:

      There is an exemption you can get from the league for an injured player, but who are the Lakers going to sign? There’s no one good sitting in free agency that’s gunna help the Lakers do anything this year. You just gotta wait for Kobe’s 50M contract to run out and the team can finally start rebuilding. What you really need is to go back in time and not trade this years first round pick for Nash.

    • illone says:

      Well you’re in luck, no sad face needed. Teams already get cap relief when a player is out for extended amounts of time due to injury.

  34. kilo says:

    The chance to see Nash at work was always a treat. The only reason I watched Lakers games was a hope to see Nash in action.