Growing up, I wasn’t immediately an NBA fan. I lived in Baltimore, and the Wizards were too DC for me to really get behind. I watched the college game for my basketball fix. I was aware of the NBA, I followed it, but it wasn’t a big part of my sports-watching life.
Steve Nash and the Suns changed all that.
For one thing, they were fun to watch. After basically my entire NBA-aware life had been dominated by the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, who, for all their rings, were not the most entertaining team to watch, Nash and the Seven Seconds or Less crew were a breath of fresh air. And, as a Canadian expat in the US, I felt a sort of kinship with Nash. When I played competitively, I was usually glued to the low block, but whenever I got the ball and had a chance at a fast break, I would get out and run and look for the opportunity to throw a no-look bounce pass. I got it just right exactly twice: once in practice, and once in a game where we were losing by 30. Still, for those two moments, I was on top of the world, because I was playing like Steve Nash.
So, thanks for the memories, Steve. And thanks for getting me to watch the NBA.
I heard someone once say there comes a day when they tell us all that we can’t play anymore. We’re not good enough. Surplus to requirements. Too slow, maybe. When you’re a teenager with outsized dreams and a growing obsession, and someone tells you this ain’t gonna last forever, it’s scary. I never forgot it.
So what did I do? Stayed obsessed. Set goals. Worked. Dreamed. Schemed. Pushed myself beyond what was normal or expected. I looked at my hero, Isiah Thomas, and thought to myself, “OK, I’m nowhere near the player he is but if I get better every day for 5 or 10 years, why can’t I be as good as him?”
The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.
And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift.
The NBA also put up this video, looking back at Nash’s illustrious career:
We’ll miss you, Steve.
Now for the rest of the news from around the NBA:
DONOVAN, HOIBERG POTENTIALLY MOVING TO NBA?
Reading between the lines of this Marc Stein column, it seems like neither is likely to leave the college ranks, but both are more so than they were previously. But I could be misreading between the lines, too.
** There is a growing sense in NBA coaching circles that Florida’s Billy Donovan will give renewed consideration to making a move to the pros after a rough (by his standards) season in Gainesville. Although there is no firm indication yet that the Orlando Magic will pursue Donovan again when they ramp up their coaching search in late April, it’s a scenario that’s bound to be talked about.
** There’s been no shortage of buzz among NBA types this week about former DePaul star Ty Corbin, freshly ousted as interim coach of the Sacramento Kings, moving to the college game to fill the fresh opening at his alma mater.
** It is widely — and I mean widely — believed throughout the league that Fred Hoiberg, whose Iowa State Cyclones were bounced in the first round of the tournament Thursday by UAB, is the top choice of the Chicago Bulls to replace Tom Thibodeau in the event that the Bulls and Thibs indeed part company at season’s end.
PAUL GEORGE NEARING RETURN TO ACTION
Does it feel to anyone else like everyone forgets how good Paul George is? Like, the Pacers won’t be last season’s Pacers when he comes back, but a fully-healthy George is one of the very best players in the NBA. It wasn’t all that long ago that he went toe-to-toe with LeBron in the 2013 East finals and more than held his own. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Indy’s time has passed.
The Indiana Pacers are targeting the next week for Paul George’s season debut, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
The team was considering bringing back George as early as Saturday’s home game against the Nets, but after the Pacers fell to the Cavs 95-92 on Friday night, coach Frank Vogel said George would not face Brooklyn.
A Pacers official said the team plans to update George’s status Monday.
The Pacers repeatedly have refrained from publicly putting a timetable on George as he’s progressed in his long recovery from a broken leg suffered in a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage in August.
George has been practicing for more than three weeks but still has a way to go to fully recover. During a scrimmage Thursday that was open to the media, George took part in full contact work but appeared to favor his leg at times while running.
Earlier this week, the Indianapolis Star quoted an unnamed Pacers teammate as saying George was “not even close to 100 percent.” George has said if he does return this season, it would be with caution and to “get his feet wet” again, as he envisioned a full recovery by the start of next season.
WHAT DO THE THUNDER DO IF DURANT LEAVES?
That’s by no means what they want to be thinking about, but it could be their reality in just over a year, so they should probably have an emergency plan. That’s the subject of this piece from Zach Lowe of Grantland:
The Thunder and Durant are making the right choice, but it comes at a huge cost to the organization: It has likely lost its last chance to chase a ring with Durant before he becomes the most talked-about expiring contract since LeBron James in 2009-10. James became a free agent at a time when it was unusual for a half-dozen teams to court him with max-level cap space. Durant will enter free agency upon the biggest salary-cap leap ever, a one-summer blip in which damn near every relevant franchise will be able to lavish a max offer upon him. A few might even give Durant the chance to pick his preferred max-level free-agent teammate.
The Thunder will put on a brave face. They will say they are confident, that they look forward to the opportunity — how’s that for reframing? — to show Durant that they’re the team for him. But don’t let the false bravado fool you. They know Durant leaving is in play. They know the cap landscape. They were the loudest non-Philly voice against lottery reform, whipping up a frenzy of small-market panic. They traded future first-round picks for Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter in separate deals, and though those players are young and the picks protected, those are the sort of win-now moves the Thunder hadn’t engaged in until this season. They are the mark of a team that knows time is precious — that failure today carries a scary downside that is no longer so far in the distance.
And as rival executives note, those moves — especially the acquisition of a low-post scorer like Kanter who has a nice pick-and-pop chemistry with Westbrook — provide the road map for a post-Durant team in the worst-case scenario of his departure.
Still, the Thunder are right to be confident in their campaign to keep Durant. The James Harden trade hasn’t worked, and was probably not even financially necessary, but the rush to bury the Thunder as the NBA’s tragic unfulfilled champions has always been premature — and sometimes unseemly.