If This Is It, How Will the NBA Remember Steve Nash?

Is it the way he sneaks and creeps his way through and around forests of flailing limbs, somehow finding the faintest view from which to kiss the ball off the glass?

Is it the brief reverse of course on a fast break to feed a trailing teammate, flopping mop of hair not thick enough to cover the second pair of eyes?

Is it the teasing seesaw ball-handling on a high pick-and-roll, finished with a pass pulled from so deep within his pocket it might as well have come from his shoe? Or the same seesaw the next time around, except a chin-cranked downtown dagger instead of a dime?

If it really is the end for Steve Nash, who was ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season Thursday, as first reported by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding and later confirmed by the Lakers, this—all of it—is how we’ll remember him: A singular maestro who defied age, angles and odds to become one of the greatest pure point guards the game has ever seen.

That’s not all we’ll remember, of course. The quartet of 50-40-90 seasons—the only player ever to do it.

The pair of MVPs, eight All-Star appearances, five assist titles, three All-NBA First Team nods—the stuff of Springfield shrines.

The Phoenix Suns teams he turned from formless speed into methodical basketball machine—a tempting template even today.

The rest of the listlong enough to burn out the induction microphone:

More important than any marks Nash may have bludgeoned on the box score, however, are the ones Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo highlighted in a recent interview with the National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald—they are the marks of a man for whom giving was much more than a means to specific statistical end:

He brings something to the table that most players, most athletes, just don’t bring. It’s not just basketball IQ or his ability to play the game. He brings an emotional intelligence, I think, to the team and the organization, and to the process, that is unrivaled. And I’ve often said that, as far as stars go, he was a low-maintenance star. You can probably count those on your hand. Tim Duncan-types. There’s not many of them that you go to bed at night not worrying about.

Considering the superlatives, you’d think Nash’s was a career charmed from the start. But the 15th overall pick in the 1996 draft—widely considered one of the best in history—was anything but a bankable asset. Over his first four seasons (first with the Suns, where he served as a backup to Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson, then the Dallas Mavericks), Nash averaged just 7.2 points and 3.8 assists.

Even after assuming the reigns of the Mavericks following a trade in 1998, Nash wasn’t exactly considered a top-tier floor general in the making. Finally, during the 2000-2001 season, Nash blossomed, tallying 15.6 points and 7.3 assists.

More importantly, the 26-year-old had begun to forge a unique chemistry with Dallas’ other rising star: a sweet-shooting 7-foot forward by the name of Dirk Nowitzki.

Three more years of steady success followed, highlighted by an appearance in the Western Conference Finals opposite the San Antonio Spursthe eventual championsin 2003. At that point, Dallas’ core trio of Nash, Nowitzki and Michael Finley seemed destined to continue its Western Conference ascent.

Instead, Nash shocked the NBA when, in the summer of 2004, he chose to return to the Suns, who had gone 29-53 the season previous.

The rest is hardwood history: five 50-win slates in six years and a pair of trips to the West Finals for a team that, under head coach Mike D’Antoni, rewrote the modern offensive record books. At the center of it all was Nash, who marshaled a core that included Amar’e Stoudemire, Boris Diaw, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson to two MVP nods and a string of assist titles, in the process becoming the game’s unquestioned best point guard.

All the while, the Suns’ incendiary brand of ball—helter-skelter and Swiss-clock precision in equal measure—helped redefine what an NBA offense not only could look like, but feel like. From SB Nation’s Paul Flannery:

It’s hard to remember now, but the Suns felt like a counter-cultural movement as much as a basketball team. They played fast, free and loose and threatened to subvert the time-honored tropes that defense-first, isolation basketball wins championships. Nash and the Suns attacked the entire ecosystem from the outside-in with pick-and-rolls and wide open threes. That they couldn‘t ultimately succeed felt at the time like a tragic letdown. It’s not an accident that a lot of the great early basketball writing on the Internet was influenced by their philosophies.

Sadly, the Suns were never quite able to scale the Spurs, and by 2012, Nash—by now without his Seven Seconds or Less stalwarts—was making it known, albeit somewhat clandestinely, that he needed a change of scenery.

Enter the Lakers, who acquired the aging star in a sign-and-trade ahead of the 2012-13 season. Teamed with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, Nash looked to have his best chance yet at securing that ever-elusive first championship.

By then, though, the wear and tear had begun to take its toll. Over the next two seasons, a disappointing stretch punctuated by Howard’s bitter departure, Nash would appear in just 65 games. The culprit: a lingering, ever-worsening back injury—for a player who’d relied so heavily on stealth quickness and changes of pace, a veritable death knell.

Still, hope was high that the 2014-15 season—a rebuilding year for the Lakers if ever there was one—would at the very least give Nash a bit of career closure in what the eight-time All-Star had claimed would be his last season in the Association.

“I was in a really, really bad place last year during the winter,” Nash told Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding during training camp. “I was largely unaware of how bad I was until I got out of it. Now I realize this is my last year. There’s no guarantee I’ll get to play any games this year. The truth is, I have a lot of miles on my back, and a day or two into training camp, it could all be done.”

Sadly, such perspective proved to be prophetic. Even after an impressive 11-point, five-assist showing in L.A.’s first preseason game, even after the 10 assists in 22 minutes in an otherwise meaningless tilt against the Portland Trail Blazers last April. Signs of life proved to be last gasps only with the cruel benefit of hindsight.

Barring some unforeseen medical mend, Nash has all but certainly footed his final minutes in an NBA uniform—compelled to a post-career course that, for whatever business bona fides or general manager genius may come of it, will never equal the wondrous wizardry of what’s been wrought already.

In the hours following the Lakers’ announcement, one couldn’t help but see in the sea of tweets and solemn retrospectives the disparate lines of some loquacious eulogy. As if Nash had passed from this to some other realm completely.

“I’m crushed,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole. “And at the same time, it’s awfully quick to reflect. But, man, what a career. What an amazing player, an innovator, somebody who will affect generations of players. … He’s one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever met.”

But for as outsized as the sorrow may seem, the morbid analogies aren’t so far afield. It’s always the best, brightest and boldest among us, after all, whose departure stirs the saddest of palls.

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Los Angeles Lakers: Just retire, Steve Nash

In all honesty, this probably should’ve happened two years ago. 
Steve Nash’s tenure as a Laker has been an unproductive one marred by injuries.
Steve Nash had the option to retire after his last season with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. The team had just come off of a season where they went 33-33 in a lockout-shortened season and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. In the offseason that followed, the Suns made it clear that they were looking to go in a different direction and start a rebuilding phase. This would’ve been a perfectly good excuse for the man who had meant everything to their franchise to exit the league with grace. At that time, a then-37-year-old Nash boasted a storied career with the Suns and Dallas Mavericks, ranking in the top 10 in total career assists and boasting two consecutive MVPs from 2004-2006. That would’ve been a good point to call it quits, right?
Not for Nash. That offseason, he took his talents to Los Angeles. Months later, a seemingly competitive Big 4 w

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Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?

(November 4, 2013 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
Yes I feel like a jerk for writing that title, because a player being injured shouldn’t be celebrated and in no way am I celebrating this injury, but for the Lakers this season they are a better team with Steve Nash injured. No Steve Nash for the Lakers means a lot more Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson, which is excellent for the team this season and for multiple seasons.
Jeremy Lin will become the starter for the Lakers this season, who I thought should have started from the day he was traded for. Why? He is the much better player at 26 than Steve Nash at 40. Nash was a distributor and shooter on a team where Kobe Bryant has the ball the most, so a distributor of his caliber wasn’t necessary, they have enough shooting and he just isn’t the best fit with Kobe at guard; Lin is perfect. At 36 Kobe isn’t goin…

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Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury (Yahoo Sports)

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 16: Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before a game against the Utah Jazz at Honda Center on October 16, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash has been ruled out for the season because of a back injury, putting the two-time NBA MVP’s career in doubt. The Lakers and Nash announced their joint decision Thursday, less than a week before the start of what would have been the 40-year-old Nash’s 19th NBA season.


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Lakers announce Steve Nash to miss season with back issues

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash  is expected to be ruled out for the 2014-15 NBA season because of recurring nerve damage in his back, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. Nash, 40, expected this season, his 19th, to be his final one.  But he has not announced his retirement. The two-time league MVP is in the final year of a three-year, $28 million deal with the Lakers that will pay him $9.7 million this year. Nash has played in just 65 games over two seasons with the Lakers, including just 15 last season. Last week, Nash injured his back carrying bags. Nash ranks first in league history in free-throw percentage (90.4), and third with 10,335 assists. The post Report: Steve Nash to miss season with back issues appeared first on Sports Glory.

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Lakers News: Steve Nash’s Season-Ending Injury Creates Big Role for Jeremy Lin

Entering the last year of his current contract, Jeremy Lin has been given a massive opportunity to woo any potential suitors, albeit due to some unfortunate circumstances.

According to a league source cited by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, incumbent starting point guard and future Hall of Famer Steve Nash will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result of nerve damage in his back.

It’s a shame to see Nash, one of the most enjoyable players on the planet during the last decade, likely end his marvelous career on such a sour note, but as Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix noted, this makes it Lin’s time to step up:

Whether he indeed enters the starting lineup or comes off the bench in favor of the more defensively minded Ronnie Price (as he has the last two preseason games), Lin is going to receive north of 30 minutes per game.

Despite dealing with an ankle injury throughout preseason, Lin has already earned praise from a pair of Los Angeles Lakers legends.

Magic Johnson recently applauded the fifth-year point guard’s ability to create offense off the dribble:

Kobe Bryant, via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram, echoed that sentiment: “Jeremy makes a huge difference…creating shots for others. We’ve got somebody else who can penetrate, make plays for others and put pressure on the defense. It’s a really big difference.”

Going back to the days of “Linsanity,” the 26-year-old’s best attribute has always been his ability to collapse a defense. However, he has improved as a shooter. Last year with the Rockets, he set career highs in three-point percentage (35.8), three-pointers made per 36 minutes (1.4) and true-shooting percentage (57.2).

Especially while Nick Young is sidelined, the Lake Show need a consistent second option on offense behind Bryant. Lin, who has played well as both a scorer and distributor in the preseason, is now the clear candidate to fill that role.

Of course, while Lin is important to the Lakers’ success, the reverse is also true. If Lin wants to take that next step as an individual player, there’s really no better way to do it than spending an entire season in the same backcourt as Bryant.

Lin has already talked about learning from the 16-time All-Star, via Sports Out West’s Bob Garcia and Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters:

While news of Nash’s season-ending injury is disheartening, positives will emerge from it. A larger role for Lin is chief among those.

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WATCH: Steve Ballmer freaks out while shown on Jumbotron

We all know that Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer can get a tad excited at times and well, during tonight’s Clippers-Suns preseason game, he showed off his enthusiasm at the Staples Center. While Steve was being shown on the jumbotron, check out his epic fist-pumping reaction as seen in the below Vine video: Never change Steve, Never Change! *** Clippers owner Steve Ballmer goes HAM while on scoreboard [CJZero] Ballmer image courtesy of Getty Images

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Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer Goes Full Ballmer While Cheering Team in Preseason

Steve Ballmer is an unabashed crazy person, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense. 

The Los Angeles Clippers owner assumed his role of lead screamer during Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Phoenix Suns. To say he was turned up would not do it justice, as he spent the majority of the game roaring and resisting the urge to run onto the court for high fives.

Vine user Snurf (h/t John Ferensen of Next Impulse Sports) uploaded video of Ballmer’s red-faced howling. This is what it looks like right before someone’s head explodes: 

It bears repeating that this was a preseason game. Where most owners would yawn through these glorified scrimmages, Ballmer screamed like he was flying a Harrier into the maw of the mothership.

So consider the tone good and set for the Clippers’ 2014-15 season. It started with his wild exhibition during the Clippers Fan Festival in September, wherein the former Microsoft CEO walked out of the tunnel to “Lose Yourself” and screamed “Boom, baby!” to the crowd.

This is just the beginning, Clippers fans. If your players can muster a quarter of Ballmer’s craziness, it’s going to be an interesting season.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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Why Warriors Fans Should Expect Fewer 3s and More Wins Under Steve Kerr

The Golden State Warriors will be looking to take the next step under new head coach Steve Kerr, hoping that a healthy lineup can make waves in the Western Conference. What can we expect out of the Dubs in year one with the new coaching staff?

Matt Kolsky of KNBR joins Stephen Nelson to play a game of over/under in the video above.

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Warriors Hope Steve Kerr May Be Final Ingredient in Creating NBA Juggernaut

LOS ANGELES — An abundance of enticing young talent drew Steve Kerr back to California last spring.   

There was 26-year-old Stephen Curry, the baby-faced point guard with the killer three-point shot.   

There was Klay Thompson, the 24-year-old shooting guard with the smooth two-way game.   

And then there was Matthew Kerr, age 16, whose talents are more cerebral.

Steve Kerr spent last week, his first as the Golden State Warriors‘ head coach, instilling a new offensive mindset (key phrase: “move the ball”), while working out his team in Santa Monica. On Friday, he wrapped up the lesson by early afternoon, to give himself time to beat the traffic to San Diego.

Matthew Kerr was starring that night in a high-school production of “Rent,” and Dad planned to be there.

This is the advantage of being the head coach: You set the schedule. And this was the allure of coaching in the Bay Area, instead of New York: Kerr is just hours away from his San Diego home.

“I can maintain a semblance of family life,” a smiling Kerr told Bleacher Report last week. “The balance is important.”

Kerr’s wife Margot and their two sons, Matthew and 21-year-old Nick, reside in San Diego. Kerr’s daughter, Madeleine, is a sophomore at UC Berkeley, a short drive from the Warriors’ practice facility.

These are perks the Knicks could not offer. Even the presence of Phil Jackson, a personal mentor, could not trump the familial tugs.

“I’ll be a better coach, just having my family around,” Kerr said. “It’s empowering.”

Also empowering: Having a roster stocked with All-Star talent to begin your coaching career. On this front, there was no comparison. And there’s no question Kerr made the right call.

The Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony (assuming he re-signed) and the promise of cap room. The Warriors offered Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and, well, by that point it was already a rout.

Kerr’s challenge now is to harness that talent more effectivelyand take it furtherthan his predecessor, Mark Jackson, could. Though the Warriors won 47 and 51 games the last two seasons, making the playoffs both years, there was always a sense they had underachieved.

The Warriors tapped Kerr to unlock their full offensive potential.

The Curry-Thompson backcourt might be the NBA‘s best (a “beautiful combination,” Kerr says). Lee is a skilled scorer. Iguodala and Bogut are deft passers. The Warriors should be one of the most potent teams in the NBA. Yet they ranked 12th last season in points per 100 possessionssolid, but not elite.

The offense too often stalled and stagnated, resulting in muddled isolation plays and contested jumpers. There was little movement or dynamism, and little sense of cohesion.

“We had guys last year that sometimes wouldn’t touch the ball for 10 straight possessions,” Bogut told Bleacher Report, “and then all of a sudden a key play, Steph or Klay get doubled, swing-swing-swing, they’re open in the corner, but then it’s a pressure shot. You haven’t shot the ball, you haven’t touched the ball…and you have a wide open shot and you’ve gotta make it.

“That was kind of our problem toward the end of games, I thought,” Bogut said. “Sometimes we relied too much on trying to get Steph and Klay shots.”

Nearly 11 percent of the Warriors’ possessions last season were isolation plays, the third highest rate in the league, per Synergy Sports. Nor were the Warriors efficient on those plays, scoring just .842 points per isolation, which ranked 14th.

The Warriors’ internal analysis was just as damning. By one assessment, the Warriors were among the league leaders in possessions in which the ball never changed sides of the court. And yet the Warriors had their best success in games in which they averaged three to four passes per possession.

These are the numbers that Kerr and his staffled by veterans Alvin Gentry and Ron Adamsare trying to hammer home as they work to change bad habits.

“When we were hitting shots, that’s great,” Lee said of the iso-heavy play. “But when we weren’t hitting outside shots, it seemed to get stagnant. And that’s when we had big lulls offensively. With the firepower we have in the first eight or nine (rotation) guys, we should never have that.”

Kerr’s playbook is a blend of his own NBA experiences: a little of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, a little of Gregg Popovich’s motion offense and bits of the up-tempo system the Phoenix Suns deployed under Gentry and Mike D’Antoni, when Kerr was the general manager.

The Warriors hope to take advantage of their speed and get easier, earlier shots. When that fails, and it becomes a halfcourt game, Kerr’s prime directive kicks in: Move. The. Ball.

That phrase bounced off the walls of every Warriors practice last week, and is now repeated like a personal mantra, by every member of the organization.

“He wants us to keep that ball moving,” Thompson said, “because we have too many good guys on this team who can go off to just play iso-ball. That’s what we’ve gotta keep improving on.”

It’s an easy case to make, given the personnel. Lee and Bogut are among the best passers at their positions. Ditto for Iguodala, who has often played the role of point-forward in his career. The Warriors are uniquely suited to a ball-movement attack, to become a younger, livelier version of the pass-happy Spurs.

“The idea is: You guys were really good, but lets take the next step,’” Kerr said. “Here’s how we take the next step: We get better ball movement, we get more uncontested shots.”

“Defenses in the NBA are really, really good,” Kerr added. “If you only force them to make one or two reads in a possession, and rotations, it’s not enough. So I want us to force defenses to react four or five times in a possession, because that’s when you’re more likely to get a breakdown on a defense and an open shot as a result.”

That means more cutting, more passing and less standing around while Curry and Thompson take turns launching threes (as successful as that may be). It also means more passes to the postnot necessarily for Lee or Bogut to score, but to force defenses to adjust and to loosen the pressure on Curry and Thompson.

Bogut, whom Kerr called “a brilliant passer” on par with Marc Gasol, was virtually ignored in the Warriors’ offense the last two seasons. Now, he’s a critical hub.

“We know if we don’t have an easy option to the basket, we’ll find open guys,” Bogut said. “I think it’s starting to become contagious with our team.”

Around the Warriors, there is a reticence to draw direct contrasts to Mark Jackson’s approach. After all, they became a playoff team again on his watch, and made huge strides on defense, where they ranked third in points allowed per 100 possessions last season.

Some rival scouts and coaches say the Warriors’ defense was never as elite, or feared, as the analytics suggest. But the Warriors were stout enough that a better offense might have pushed them into the West’s top tier.

Improving their fourth-quarter execution, or bumping up their efficiency rating by even a point or two, might net the Warriors another four or five wins—the difference between a top-four finish (and home-court advantage in the playoffs) and a disadvantageous low seeding.

Even with a flawed offense, and Bogut missing due to injury, the Warriors took the Clippers to seven games last spring, suggesting that, with a few minor improvements and a little good fortune, they might be ready to join the elite.

The rest is up to their rookie coach.

“This team, they know they can be really good,” Kerr said. “I pound that home every day with them.”

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.

 

 

 

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