As a former Phoenix Suns fans, I feel qualified to write a post on the end of an era. I say “former” because only a few years ago they were my favorite team.
I loved watching the Steve Nash to Amar’e Stoudemire pick and roll. The rest of the NBA saw Raja Bell as a dirty player, but to me he was a pesky, lockdown defender. I cheered for Leandro Barbosa, the "Brazilian Blur," as he raced up and down the floor. Shawn Marion’s shot was ugly, but he was fun to watch when he got some room to jump. I was even on the Shaquille O'Neal bandwagon for a while.
Now all those players are gone, along with my fandom. Nash was the last to go. Since he was always my favorite all along, he kept me hanging on with partial interest until the end. But with each player that left, a little piece of my heart that was tied to the Suns went with him.
I know there are more loyal Suns fans than me, and they have to be sad to see Nash go, but is there hope for a contending team to rise from the ashes of what he left behind?
Steve Nash showed for years that he has the ability to make everyone around him a better player. It is hard to find someone that went on to improve their numbers after leaving Steve Nash, unless they were so young when they played together that maturity was inevitable (Joe Johnson). Now we are going to see how good guys like Channing Frye (if he can return from an enlarged heart that will keep him out indefinitely) and Jared Dudley really are. They have been benefitting from being in Nash’s offense for years. I am guessing they will not get as many open looks as they are used to and their numbers are going to drop.
All hope is not lost for the Suns though.
They have made some significant offseason acquisitions that could help fill the void left by Nash. Luis Scola is a gritty hustle player who can provide veteran leadership and be an emotional catalyst. He will be an instant fan favorite. Michael Beasley comes from Minnesota after somewhat of a checkered past. His numbers have been inconsistent, he is an injury risk and he has some attitude problems. Despite all that, many believe he has the talent to be a great player in this league if he can get his head on straight.
More specifically, replacing Nash at point guard is going to be the biggest challenge for this Suns team. They brought back Goran Dragic from Houston who had his coming out party with Phoenix back in the 2010 when he scored 23 points in the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. Dragic will most likely begin the year as the starter, but Suns fans will remember he was turnover-prone and had poor shot selection at times.
He will see competition from rookie Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina, who is very talented but may need some time to mature. The Suns also have journeyman Sebastian Telfair, who could see some minutes at point guard.
It does not take a genius to figure out that none of these guys are Steve Nash. Honestly, they are not even close. This team will feel the effects of letting Nash go for a long time. They have probably forgotten what it is like not to have a true All-Star running the show, but they will see soon enough.
I do not think this team is doomed. I actually think they could compete for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference if things fall into place the right way, but it sure won’t be the same.
Have a favorite Steve Nash in Phoenix memory? Have any idea how the Suns will replace their star point guard? Share your thoughts on the comments below or on Twitter by hashtagging #SunsDay.