We learn things about ourselves in how we deal with the absurdity of the world, right? Incongruities and general nonsense add variables to our lives that over time develop into something tangible, and more importantly, stable.
Our identity is never really defined by one source, but if that could ever be the case, the Steve Nash era Phoenix Suns would serve as a perfect example.
Nash’s arrival in 04-05 and immediate success in immersing the team in his world of 360° vision served as a bridge; one spanning from the heartwarming/breaking 92-93 NBA finalist Suns to where the Suns are now and have been for more than half a decade. Of course, this is not giving enough credit to the Jason Kidd, who was great in Phoenix, but was only able to move past the first round once in five seasons. Nash, of course, led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in the first season (of his second stint) with Phoenix.
It’s impossible to think of the Suns’ offense without thinking of probing; of Nash’s staccato steps into the lane; of the shuffle passes to a rolling sticks of dynamite in Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion; of the endless variations of 3-point assists; of his patented freak fadeaways off a shake and stutter.
It’s impossible to think of the Suns’ recent success without seeing traces of Nash embedded in every fiber. How would players like Stoudemire, Marion, Jim Jackson, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, James Jones, Tim Thomas, Raja Bell, Jumaine Jones, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, or Channing Frye have rejuvenated, reinvented, captured, or unleashed their play without Nash funneling timely passes? Nash altered the nature of the game for everyone who has played with him, and they’ve cashed in on that success, be it in Phoenix or elsewhere after.
Of course, what caught a few by surprise was Stoudemire’s success after his departure from Phoenix. Stoudemire’s continued prosperity can be construed as a “Ha, I told you so,” but it also legitimizes exactly what Nash meant to a player like Stoudemire. Stars are born with or without Nash’s consent. But Nash alters the nature of play, and thus alters perception. Success is suddenly as easy as readying your hands for a pass. Success is then not determined by ifs, but whens. Amar’e always had the talent and desire to be a top-flight NBA player, even before Nash’s arrival. But his ability was always celebrated in the context of Nash’s brilliance. It’s not Amar’e's fault. It’s just a testament to the forces Nash holds over this franchise.
And that’s a lot for an organization to consider. The Suns’ latest acquisitions are nice, but by no stretch will it make them contenders (though I don’t think the new acquisitions got the memo). The freedom that the trade brought hint towards a restructuring (to put it lightly). And yet Nash remains. Because to trade Nash would be an unwise decision. Both logic and sentiment support this. And honestly, when are those two factors ever in agreement? Nash’s contract, for what he provides the team, is more than fair. What Nash means for the team in terms of performance is irreplaceable, as are the moments of triumph and disaster. You don’t trade that away. To have Nash is to have hope in uncertainty, to have calm before, during, and after the storm. But that kind of sentimentality lies in seeing Nash as a quantifiable idea, not as a person.
Of course Nash should be on a team with championship hopes. Of course he should experience an NBA Finals before his career is over. But how much does that weigh on Nash’s mind? If Nash has a lasting legacy, it is in Phoenix. A championship would be sweet, but how he’s changed the league through his efforts in Phoenix are matchless. From what we’ve heard from him, he is on board with staying in Phoenix, and looks forward to the new challenge of incorporating three new players. There’s no hiding Nash’s optimism, even behind his coarse voice.
Steve Nash is 36, and under normal circumstances, should be in the twilight of his career, though his play compels us to reconsider. His remaining years should be spent using his talents and influence to propel an elite team to a championship. Currently they aren’t. But Nash has spent the past six years in Phoenix. With his divorce officially filed, maybe the bonds he’s forged in Phoenix are what he needs to round out his career. He’s already laid out framework for life after retirement, so there are no worries about Nash travelling as a wayward vagabond late in life, looking to prove his worth through basketball.
The Suns owe much of everything they’ve received in the past six years to Steve Nash; there is no denying that. Do they owe him a trade? Maybe they do. But if Nash is being truthful, perhaps his position isn’t as harrowing as we’ve made it out to be. Perhaps the feeling of security and continuity amidst an ever-shifting landscape (as paradoxical as that sounds) may be the key to understanding Nash’s future. Considering all that Steve Nash is to the Phoenix Suns’ identity, perhaps this family, born in the home that Nash built and maintained, has factored significantly into his own.