If any doubt remained, the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash established his bona fides as one of the organization’s all-time greats on Feb. 1, when he blew past Kevin Johnson as the franchise’s all-time leader in career assists. (Nash also holds team records for three-pointers made and attempted, as well as three-point and free throw shooting percentages.) Now, he’s on the cusp of passing an NBA icon.
With Phoenix set to host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight on TNT (10:30 p.m. ET) and the Suns only one-half game behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the two-time MVP needs 10 assists to pass Oscar Robertson (9,887) for fifth place on the all-time assist list; assuming it’s accomplished, it will leave Nash behind only all-time leader John Stockton (15,806), active leader Jason Kidd (11,838), Mark Jackson (10,323), and Magic Johnson (10,141).
In his 16th season, the 38-year-old Nash shows no signs of slowing down. Nash is averaging 10.8 assists, trailing only Boston’s Rajon Rondo (11.6 apg), who turned 26 this season. One of the league’s top marksmen, Nash ranks tied for eighth in the NBA in field goal percentage (.534); those ahead of him are all frontcourt players. He also is shooting .402 from three-point range. Hall of Famers Chris Mullin (1996-97) and Stockton (1994-95) are the only players in NBA history to shoot at least 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from three in the same season. One of the all-time great free throw shooters, Nash this season is shooting .894 from the charity stripe. Nash has shot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the line in a season four times. Amazingly, it’s been accomplished only a total of nine times in league annals: Larry Bird did it twice, while Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, and Mark Price each did it once.
Advanced metrics back up the more traditional stats in confirming Nash’s dominance. According to NBA.com/Stats, Nash’s True Shooting Percentage, which calculates shooting percentage adjusting for the value of free throws and three-point field goals, is .624. That ranks seventh among players who have appeared in at least 50 games. His Player Impact Estimate (PIE), which measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games he’s played in, is 15.0 percent, which ranks 15th overall. Perhaps most indicative, Nash ranks second to Rondo in AST%, the percentage of field goals a player assisted when he was on the floor. Rondo, 12 years Nash’s junior, is at 49.3 while Nash is at 49.2.
Stats & Stuff:
- Dallas’ Vince Carter needs two three-pointers made to become the 18th player in NBA history with at least 1,500 treys. Carter’s teammates, Jason Kidd (1,870) and Jason Terry (1,783), are among the 17 others who have reached the milestone.
- Since a four-game stretch in mid-March in which they had no more than four thefts, the Indiana Pacers have had at least eight steals in nine of their last 18 games.
- Memphis’ Mike Conley is on pace to set a franchise record for steals per game (career-high 2.25). That mark ranks second in the NBA this season (L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul, 2.47 spy).
- Utah has played six overtime games this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Utah is the third team to complete the “OT cycle” in a season: playing at least one one-, two-, three-, and four- overtime game. The other teams to do this were the 1952-1953 Indianapolis Olympians in their final season (eight total, including five single-OT games), and the 1997-1998 Phoenix Suns (five total including two single-OT games).
ERIK SPOELSTRA, on LeBron James’ physical fitness:
“He keeps himself in superior condition and always is spending extra time in the building doing something … Everything to try and maintain his body. It’s a year-round job for him. All the work he does before the season prepares him for a long grind. You also have to be lucky, quite frankly.”
Sun Sentinel April 19, 2012