VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 29
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Nash gets his moment in sun in Phoenix — Tonight, during halftime of the Phoenix Suns’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass), former two-time MVP Steve Nash will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. To call this a big event for the franchise is to vastly undersell it as Nash’s impact on the team revitalized the franchise at a low point and also, helped spark an offensive revolution of sorts in the NBA over the last decade. (Suns.com alone has Q&A’s with Nash’s old teammates, his former coach, Mike D’Antoni, a two-part hour-long special on Nash’s career and more.) One observer who was part of Nash’s golden age with the Suns in the 2000s, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, tries to put into context a player who meant so much to so many:
From draft-night boos to “We want Steve” curtain-call chants. From a bloody nose to a swollen-shut eye.
From flying hair to finger-licking free throws. From a sweet shot with a soft touch to a sweet side with a soft spot.
From the nickname “Two-Time” (for his MVP awards) to the Ring of Honor now to the Hall of Fame later.
Dallas borrowed him, but this Canadian snowbird is eternally colored in purple and orange for 10 winters in Phoenix that produced a franchise rebirth. Friday night, Nash the basketball retiree returns, stirring memories of every other version of No. 13.
Entering his prime belatedly at age 30, Nash redefined point-guard play, combining with the offensive genius of coach Mike D’Antoni, who put his stamp on changing tempo, spacing and lineup innovation.
“It was the start of what we see now by the majority of teams in the league,” Nash said of the 62-20 season. “The style was new. The speed and pace was shocking people. They had a hard time adjusting.”
“Sometimes, I watch what (Stephen) Curry is doing and think, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is incredible,’” said Nash, now a player development consultant for Golden State. “But in that Dallas series, it was kind of similar. It was a great will to win the series. It was obviously personal for me – not in a vindictive way, but a personal way.”
Nash made the Suns the NBA’s most efficient offense for six seasons and remained an All-Star at age 38. That included another vengeful moment in 2010, when he shot 56 percent and averaged 22 points and eight assists to lead a Suns sweep of the San Antonio team that had ousted his Suns from three previous postseasons. That Suns team had the NBA’s most prolific offense per possession in three decades.
Think Nash edged Shaquille O’Neal for MVP by the benefit of his surrounding talent in 2005? In the next season, he repeated the MVP feat over Kobe Bryant even after losing each starting teammate except Shawn Marion.
The Suns won 54 games and again reached the conference finals during the first of Nash’s four 50-40-90 seasons. The only other player to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent at the free-throw line in a season multiple times is Larry Bird, who did it twice. The only other point guard to be a repeat MVP was Magic Johnson.
His background in soccer, hockey and lacrosse gave him unique vision to go with underrated athleticism. Nash was cognizant to keep all of his teammates involved and they learned to be on their toes for passes that would come around his back, underhanded, ambidextrously or through defender’s legs.
Nash showed both strength of his game in a classic 2006-07 season duel with Jason Kidd, whose 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists were outdone by Nash’s 42 points, 13 assists and six rebounds with a clutch 3-pointer that saved a double-overtime Suns road win.
For pure passing, the quintessential game came in that season’s first-round playoff series. Nash dished out 23 assists against the Lakers and tied an NBA playoff record with 15 in the first half.
“When you’re at this stage of your life, I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that? What?’” Nash said. “You forget. Those type of nights happened quite a lot.”
No. 2: Report: Pistons to retire numbers of Wallace, Billups — The Detroit Pistons’ teams of the early-to-mid-2000s were some of the best defensive teams in NBA history. From 2003-08, the Pistons made six straight Eastern Conference finals, reaching the NBA Finals twice (2004, ’05) and winning the championship in ’04. Center Ben Wallace and point guard Chauncey Billups, provided the defense and offense, respectively, and served as the on-court conscious of the squad, too. According to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Billups and Wallace will soon be immortalized by the Pistons and have their jerseys retired in a forthcoming ceremony:
Persons with first-hand knowledge of the organizations’ plans confirmed to the Free Press today that Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace will have their numbers retired at two separate game-night ceremonies later this season.
Anonymity was requested because the dates haven’t been finalized, but the news confirms what has been rumored for the past year – the main cogs in the last great era of Pistons basketball will get their nights to receive thanks for their great careers.
The plans have been in the works for some time, and Billups (No. 1) and Wallace (No. 3) were officially informed the past few days.
Billups, also known as “Mr. Big Shot,” retired after the 2013-14 season. The point guard rejoined the Pistons for his final season after he was traded in November 2008 for Allen Iverson.
Before that trade, Billups, 39, was the unquestioned leader of the team and was the MVP of the 2004 Finals.
The Pistons’ decline can be traced to the day he was traded to the Denver Nuggets and the news comes with the current Pistons generating excitement because of a 2-0 start.
If Billups was the leader, Wallace, 41, was the heart of that group of Pistons. The defensive anchor of a team that smothered opposing attacks, “Big Ben” was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
He hasn’t played since the 2011-12 season.
The expectation is that the jersey retirement ceremonies will come during high-profile games to make sure the greats get the recognition they have earned.
VIDEO: The legend of Chauncey Billups in Detroit
VIDEO: Ben Wallace changes Pistons’ fortunes in 2000s
No. 3: Cuban downplays rivalry with Clippers — If you didn’t pay attention to the whole DeAndre Jordan/Dallas Mavericks/Los Angeles Clippers saga in free agency, we don’t know how you missed it. At any rate, there were some bad feelings on the side of the Mavs for Jordan’s move back to the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of it all. As the teams met last night in L.A., though, Mavs owner Mark Cuban downplayed any type of lingering emotion toward Jordan or his Clippers. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com was there and has more:
There have been many words exchanged via the media since Jordan reneged on a commitment to the Mavs and re-signed with the Clippers, including between Cuban and Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. However, Cuban implied Thursday that the Clippers aren’t a relevant enough franchise to be considered one of the Mavs’ chief rivals.
“Look, the Clippers are the Clippers,” Cuban said while surrounded by media on the Staples Center sideline before the game. “You can change the players, you can change the owner, but the Clippers are who they’ve been for the last 30 years.
“I mean, I don’t hate the Clippers. That’s a strong word. I don’t hate anybody on the Clippers. I pretty much hate anybody who doesn’t have Mavericks or Dallas across their chest, but again, I just don’t give a s— about the Clippers. Maybe that explains it.”
The Clippers proceeded to rout the Mavs 104-88, with Jordan, the source of much of the animosity, recording six points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. He also picked up a technical foul after tangling with Dirk Nowitzki. The teams combined for four technicals and a series of hard personal fouls, and trash talk was abundant on the court and from both benches.
“It’s definitely an emotional game,” said Jordan, who declined to address the Dallas debacle directly. “The emotions were high obviously because it was our home opener. We wanted to give the fans what they missed.”
Cuban said pregame that he hasn’t communicated with Jordan since July 9, a day before the center ignored repeated attempts by the Mavericks owner to reach out to him and then re-signed with the Clippers, who sent a contingent to his house in Houston.
“I haven’t said a word to him, haven’t heard a word from him,” said Cuban, who first joked that he didn’t know who Jordan was. “I mean, no good reason to. If it wasn’t going to happen then, there’s no reason for it to happen later.”
For his part, Rivers responded sarcastically postgame when asked about Cuban’s comments, saying, “That’s so hurtful.”
VIDEO: DeAndre Jordan talks after the Clippers’ win over the Mavericks
No. 4: Carlisle: No timetable for Williams’ return — The Dallas Mavericks remodeled their backcourt over the summer, adding former All-Star Deron Williams to an aging core. D-Will’s best days are long behind him due to a litany of injuries he suffered the last few seasons, but the hope was he could be a more-than serviceable point guard for the Mavs this season. Williams, however, missed last night’s game vs. the L.A. Clippers with a left knee sprain and hopes of him suiting up again soon are likely on hold. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News has more:
Deron Williams had an MRI performed on his left knee Thursday, and while results showed no structural damage, he sat out the game against the Clippers.
Williams said the MRI showed a sprain. He listed himself as day-to-day.
After the Mavericks’ loss to the Clippers coach Rick Carlisle said: “We don’t think it’s serious. That’s all I’m authorized to say by my boss, Casey Smith (the athletic trainer). The hope is we can get him going, but I don’t have a timetable. It could be pretty quick or it could be a little bit. We’ll just have to see.”
When Dirk Nowitzki was asked about the overall health of the team, he said: “I’m not sure how bad D-Will is. But if (Chandler) Parsons has a couple more workouts, there’s a chance he could be out there (Sunday) and Wes (Matthews) looked good out there.
“I’m looking forward to getting this group together. We haven’t had a practice yet together. I think once we’re all healthy we can be a dangerous team.”
Matthews played more minutes than expected Wednesday in the win at Phoenix, and coach Rick Carlisle said Matthews was being held out on the second night of a back-to-back as a precaution.
“This was not a pre-scheduled rest day,” Carlisle said of Matthews. “But considering the minutes he did put in, this is the right move for us.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Houston Rockets youngsters Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones are reportedly passing on contract extensions … The Los Angeles Clippers did a ton of research on Lance Stephenson before trading for him … For the record, Joakim Noah was the one who first came up with this whole idea of him being a Sixth Man this season … Detroit Pistons sharpshooter Jodie Meeks has a Jones fracture in his right foot and is out indefinitely … Former Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls swingman Ronnie Brewer has reportedly signed an NBA D-League deal … The Toronto Raptors’ D-League affiliate has reportedly traded for 7-foot-5 prospect Sim Bhullar … Days after cutting Nate Robinson, the New Orleans Pelicans plan to add point guard Toney Douglas … David Stockton is likely to play overseas soon …
ICYMI of the Night: In honor of this being Steve Nash‘s big night and all, we’ve got two give-and-go sequences that would make the former MVP proud …
VIDEO: Josh Smith finds Wesley Johnson on the give-and-go play
VIDEO: Wesley Johnson finds Austin Rivers for a layup off the give-and-go