Steve Nash sat on the training table in the Phoenix Suns’ locker room, munching on a granola bar, icing his knees and ankles.
Following the 100-88 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, the one that will relegate the Suns to lottery pick status, one had to think it could be the final time Nash plays at EnergySolutions Arena in a Phoenix uniform.
Marcin Gortat said he thinks Nash will come back, and then admitted that was just his best guess. Alvin Gentry spoke of Nash in glowing terms that made you think the end was near. Indeed, when conventional wisdom dictates Nash leave in pursuit of that championship ring, everyone connected with Phoenix sat back and admired the job Nash did this year, at 38 years of age, without much of a supporting cast or anything resembling a secondary star.
“He was the whole team,” Gortat said. “Everything we did on offense started with Steve, and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Nash is second in the NBA in assists this year at 10.8 per game. He averages 12.5 points per game. At an age where most point guards are headed for retirement, Nash played at an All-Star level.
His ability to run the pick-and-roll and find open shooters contributed to career years from people like Shannon Brown, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Under his leadership, Sebastian Telfair went from being on his way out of the NBA to playing a solid backup role.
“It’s tough,” Nash said. “We found a way to put ourselves in playoff position. We started slow and nobody gave us a chance. We hung in there, and made it work and gave ourselves a shot.”
That being said, Nash couldn’t bail Phoenix out when the Suns needed it the most. Against the Jazz, Phoenix needed a scorer, someone who could create points by himself. Utah pinched and trapped Nash anytime it got the chance. The Jazz simply weren’t going to let Nash dominate.
Furthermore, the game got away from Phoenix with Nash on the bench, with Utah building a seven point lead in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Nash usually rests the first six minutes of the final period, and Gentry stuck with Telfair when it looked like Nash was the only thing that could wake up the Suns’ offense.
“At this point, Steve is not a nine-minute fourth-quarter guy,” Gentry said. “He’s a five- or six-minute guy. Sebastian was playing well, and the unit was going well together, so that’s why we stuck with it as long as we did.”