- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

Steve Nash is a 32-year-old freak of unparalleled audacity.

His upward climb defies the customary parameters of the NBA.

He is becoming ever more efficient with age, and no one thinks it is because of the cream and clear. He is built like the neighborhood runt, nondescript, right down to his previously spaghetti-like hair.

Yet Nash is in position to claim his third consecutive MVP award, and there really is no one else in contention at this point in the season.

He is having a career season, absurd as that is. He is shooting 90.4 percent from the free throw line, an unthinkable 49.5 percent from 3-point distance and 51.7 overall.

The NBA intelligentsia is all atwitter over Allen Iverson’s change of address, as if the Nuggets suddenly have bolted into championship contention. All this commotion is dispensed in honor of someone lugging around a 41.3 shooting percentage.

So where does that put Nash, besides a basketball galaxy far, far away?

Even as the NBA’s two-time MVP, Nash never has been universally embraced, mostly because his sleight of hand cannot be appreciated by the ordinary eye.

He has been almost a begrudging two-time MVP, with many observers not sure how he does it, just that he does it.

After he claimed his first MVP, Shaquille O’Neal’s hometown columnist trotted out the tired notion that Nash was aided in the voting because of his whiteness, as if anyone in this nation has a special affinity for a soccer-playing Canadian who hails from that basketball power known as Santa Clara.

Nash lacks a charismatic personality, which is equally hurtful to the image. His exchanges with the media can put an insomniac to sleep.

There is no bravado in him, no compulsion to be disdainful of others, in the manner of Kobe Bryant’s tepid assessment of Gilbert Arenas’ 60-point number on the Lakers.

Bryant cannot hide his inner jerk, no more than Nash can hide his inner blandness.

Nash is like John Stockton in that regard, not one to pontificate endlessly on his special place in humanity.

Nash is just happy to be in the NBA, — blah, blah, blah — and undisturbed by Stephon Starbury’s delusional claims of greatness.

Nash is content to be the unassuming gym rat who probes the defense in an unorthodox manner.

He dribbles east to west, west to east; he dribbles through the jaws of the defense and then back out to the perimeter, always looking for a teammate cutting to the basket.

Nash shows there are lots of ways to play the game. Not that anyone in the AAU crowd is taking notes.

If Nash broke the ankles of opponents with his first step or was caught carrying the marijuana of a friend, it would be different.

He would be perceived as edgy then.

Who doesn’t like the rebellious feeling of placing a friend’s marijuana stash in a gym bag?

It is easy to forget now that in the season before Nash landed in Phoenix, the Suns scratched out 29 victories. Nash hiked the win output to 62 in his first season and evolved from a second-tier All-Star to a dominant player.

No one saw it coming, starting with Mark Cuban, who studied the mortuary tables of basketball players and concluded that Nash was on the downside of his career.

Cuban overlooked Nash’s grounded floor game that is allowing him to age extremely well.

Nash never has been forced to rely on quickness or jumping ability. He is a midfielder in a basketball uniform, always in motion. He does pay for that, most noticeably in the spring, when the grind begins to sap his legs.

Mike D’Antoni tries to manage his minutes in the regular season, but, of course, that approach is ignored on a game-to-game basis.

The Washington region will receive a full dose of Nash tonight, as the Wizards brace for their second back-to-back affair on a four-game road swing.

Nash is averaging 19.3 points and 11.6 assists, both career highs, and has led the Suns on a 15-game winning streak.

This is Nash’s season, the Suns as championship-ready as ever.



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