I am no Steve Nash hater. Quite the opposite, like most people who watch the NBA I am in awe of what he's able to do on the court. His passing has been described as the "best ever" and while I've not seen ALL the point guards to EVER play, I will still heartily agree with that assessment. So, when we point out something Nash isn't good at, it's not hating, it's more like incredulous curiosity.
Steve Nash at the end of quarters, halves, and games with the ball in his hands has become an adventure in comic timing. All too often we see the Suns fail to get off a shot before the clock blows up and when a play is run it nearly never results in a good look.
There are no actual stats to support this observation so you are just going to have to trust me. It's weird.
These last two games are examples but by no means the only cases in point. Even though the Suns won both games in overtime on shots from the new Mr. Clutch, Channing Frye, the execution late was horrifically bad.
"That's ridiculous, that's the worst basketball game I've seen down the stretch. That was horrible. We are lucky as anything to win the game to tell the truth and be honest with you," Alvin Gentry said after the New Jersey game.
What's noticeable about these late game lapses, fouling a three-point shooter aside, is how new it is. This isn't something that's been part of Nash's career. It's a change, but is it a decline?
Yes and no.
Nash's shooting has dropped some this year (.382 from three) and his ability to hit shots is a well-known indicator of his health. When his body is right, he's that same knock-down guy but over the last few years those the times when he's played through pain (and still managed to be highly effective) have increased.
Without the ability to create his own dagger threes late in games or even hit crazy shots in traffic, he's had to rely more on his teammates. Unfortunately, this version of the Suns is the least talented he's played with since coming to Phoenix.
Gone are guys like Joe Johnson and Jason Richardson to make plays. Amare Stoudemire is not here to help facilitate by drawing the attention of the defense on the roll or floating out for a pick and pop. Even Hedo Turkoglu proved in his short time in Phoenix that he could create his own shot late in games and had the "ball" to make them.
Vince Carter is not the go-to guy the Suns were hoping for, so that has left Coach Gentry with only one option late in the clock if Grant Hill isn't having one of his increasingly rare fine shooting nights -- Channing Frye.
And while Frye has hit his last two (but missed several others in different games), you better believe that Alvin Gentry and Steve Nash would like to have more options.
"We knew what they were going to run, Frye (Channing Frye) made the same basic shot from a different area on the floor against Indiana and we just didn't get it executed," Nets coach Avery Johnson said about the game-winning shot that a better team would have defended.
Bottom line, Nash's decline in late-game execution is a combination of his own abilities deserting him and the Suns front office failing to surround him with enough talent. No offense to Channing.