In 1996 Steve Nash walked into the Phoenix Suns facilities to see nine year NBA veteran Kevin Johnson waiting there for him. The rookie came into a great situation where he had one of the best and most underrated players at his position there to groom him.
Midway through the season the Suns welcomed in third year budding star Jason Kidd as well giving Nash another brain to pick and player to learn from.
Having those on hand with contrasting styles, but greatness to witness helped develop Nash after a rather uneventful rookie year that saw him score 3.3 PPG and dish out 2.1 APG. The 22 year old rookie never looked back after that as he split the back-up duties with Johnson his second year and created enough value to be sent to theDallas Mavericks to begin his ascension as a star in this league.
The moral of the story is Nash had two incredible influences in Johnson and Kidd that showed him the ropes and made him a better player. They were his mentors.
Enter into the fray Kendall Marshall. The rookie came to Phoenix with the opportunity to learn from one of the best, but he was also not naïve to the situation at hand. The excitement to play with a legend was there, so was the objective ideology that he could be the replacement.
"Either or," said Marshall on draft night on his preference to play with or without Nash. "I feel he is one of the best to ever do it and someone I would love to learn from. At the end of the day I have no control over that decision. If he is not there and I am thrown into the fire there are still great veterans there to learn from."
Well played rookie.
The guidance and leadership Nash has built up in his 16+ years in the NBA would have been priceless for the rookie point guard. Learning from the best conditioned athlete of his creed and a player that parlayed that into a career where he continued to get better with age.
Marshall is a consummate professional and mature beyond his years, which would have made the All-Class Nash a perfect mentor for the potential star. Nash made a career out of not being a prototype. He was never the fastest, quickest, dunk in your face athlete at the point guard position yet is a two time MVP because of those exact qualities.
The same can be said about Marshall. He is not a head full of steam athlete that is going to blow you away, but he is a heady skilled guard like Nash. The primary knocks on Marshall are his lack of defense and consistent shooting. The ladder didn't affect Nash's career while the best all-around shooter ini NBA history wouldn't be a bad teacher for Marshall as he develops his shooting.
"I know it is not going to be easy," said Marshall about possibly replacing the legend of Steve Nash. "But I am up for the challenge."
It is not necessarily that extreme. Marshall is not replacing Nash alone on an island rather as part of a linchpin with recently signed (to an offer sheet) former Suns and Rockets guard Goran Dragic. In the end Dragic may be a viable mentor for Marshall, but a 26-year old budding star entering his prime is vastly different from a 38-year old established star on his way out.
This is your "Welcome to the NBA" moment rookie. The thought of learning from the best, as Nash had the opportunity to do 16 years ago was a possibility a mere seven days ago on June 29th when Marshall was introduced as the newest member of the Suns. He knew then it was out of his control and Nash could leave, but the opportunity to watch Nash as a professional is a pipedream that burst as quickly as it was built.
What was once the possibility of 82 games and countless practices has been widdled down to 4 games, 192 minutes, and a few words after the final buzzer sounds. As Marshall (@KButter5) tweeted out moments after news broke on Nash being traded, "It just got real, let's get it!" Indeed it did just get real.
Instead, Marshall will be learning on the court from in action like all the other young point guards in the NBA today. His learning will be while back peddling on defense trying to read the eyes of the man that was going to show him the ropes in the NBA who was gone before he got there.
You can get more Suns coverage at Bright Side of the Sun.