The NBA celebrates NBA 75 roster players almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is Steve Nash, who first appeared on The Sporting News as a lightly drafted “crown jewel” in Santa Clara at the West Coast Conference in the spring of 1995. Three years later, TSN was giving Give readers an up-close look at the NBA’s dynamic young guards in the January 19, 1998 issue.
The Steve Nash Book
Soles G 6-3 / 195
Nash is proving to be one of the steals of the 1996 NBA draft. In fact, Suns coach Danny Ainge believes Nash is among the top twelve point guards in the league right now.
The problem is that Nash is playing behind a pair of All-Stars: Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson. However, Nash’s role has increased now that KJ is sidelined until the All-Star break, and Nash has shown that Ainge’s assessment can be correct. Heading into this week, he leads the team in 3-point accuracy and is one of the best in the league when it comes to assist and loss.
“Without a doubt, he’s the best shooter on our team,” says KJ.
Although Nash has proven to be a tenacious defender, fast point guards defeat him far too often from dribbling. But he’s an excellent ball handler, passer, and floor leader who’s not afraid to lead a team loaded with veterans. His greatest strength, however, may be his tough attitude.
“We liked him (in the ’96 draft),” says Seattle coach George Karl. “We don’t usually like small guards, but we thought they could play in our system because of their toughness.”
Nash makes good decisions on the open court or midfield, and he has proven to be a good off-the-ball player. He doesn’t mind setting tough picks on the baseline, and has played alongside Kidd in the role of a shooting guard, working with picks and making jump shots. In fact, Nash dismissed any doubts about his ability to score during the preseason when he scored 25 points in one half against Houston, finishing with 35 in that game.
“That little fool can play,” says Ainge. “Everyone else is discovering that now.”
The question is no longer whether Nash can be one of the best point guards in the league; is if he can be a floor leader with the Suns. Kidd is clearly the guy in that department. Nash’s value and Kidd’s presence have sparked trade rumors since the Suns acquired Kidd the day after Christmas last season. But Nash insists he’s not eager to go anywhere and doesn’t expect a trade to happen.
“I think he could be a part of the Suns for a long time,” he says.