Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Shine on this

The Suns have pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. They’ve crept under the radar in one instance most people purposely overlook. The Suns are winning because of one major factor, and popular belief says they don’t have this tendency on their team. Are you watching? If you were, you would notice the Suns play defense.

We associate defense with a slow, methodical, one-on-one tango performed by very cerebral and often times offensively incapable players. Not so. Defense isn’t always played out like the San Antonio Spurs approach, which causes your eyes to split from the pupil out of boredom. What the Suns do may not be the best model of defense, but they’re able to win ball games doing it.

The Suns are the NBA’s 11th best rebounding team. This stat jumps out because 11th is higher than Dwight Howard and Orlando, Tim Duncan and San Antonio and Elton Brand and the L.A. Clippers. All three teams are considered good, if not great, rebounding and defensive teams.

Rebounding is what jump starts the Suns’ offensive break. Couple that with their high rate of well-timed steals and you have the recipe for Suns D. Actually, this team is almost an exact replica of the Washington Wizards with a few more capable shooters.

The Suns have also made people believe they are a one man show. Like Arenas in Washington, Steve Nash is thought to be the first, last and middle option for success. Not so.

Nash is an amazing basketball player. We can’t take that away from him. What I can shy away from is the common cliché in pro hoops that he’s a player who “Makes his teammates better.” How does that work?

Nash isn’t doing anything to improve a player’s individual game. It’s the most disgusting implication in the NBA. The same people that say the Suns players would be nothing without Nash are the same people that argue Scottie Pippen wouldn’t be a top 50 player without Michael Jordan. That’s bogus! If we’re counting it that way, let’s say Jordan wouldn’t be a six-time NBA champion without Pippen.

Nash takes what his system gives him. He makes the most of the opportunities afforded to him. As do his teammates. He isn’t the one that made Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa great shooters. He has nothing to do Shawn Marion’s flick shot or the explosive post play of Amare Stoudemire. Those players aren’t at the highest level of basketball because Steve Nash got them there. They’re players!

Don’t get caught up in the pageantry of one’s talents and jump off the bridge. Admire and evaluate so that you can be an informed NBA follower. Trust me. If Nash was passing the ball to guys that couldn’t hit jumpers and lay-ups we wouldn’t consider him an MVP. He would be what Allen Iverson was in Philly – another great player that doesn’t have the supporting cast.
Point guards don’t make their teammates great. They, if great themselves, provide an avenue for others to showcase their talents.

With all that said it remains to be seen just how far the Suns will go. A lot of people are twisting ankles and tearing ACLs for a chance to jump on the Phoenix bandwagon. As it stands, the Dallas Mavericks are still the reigning champs of the Western Conference. Furthermore, if you study the records, Dallas is two games ahead of Phoenix at 39-9 overall.

My advice, you might want to wear a knee brace and helmet before jumping at the next train out.

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