Friday, December 17

Why I'm Pissed Off This Week: Steve Nash for MVP

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns face off against the Seattle Supersonics tonight at Key Arena in a battle of the top two teams in the NBA.
That's right, pretty boy: I'm calling you out!

You know, I had intended to start this column a couple of weeks ago. The fact I didn’t is the truest sign yet that the Sonics are off to a fantastic start, inasmuch as the grumpiest 32-year-old you’ll ever meet could not find a stitch to criticize in the jersey that is this season.

Well, let me commence this week’s epistle with a quote from our friend Eric Neel at espn.com: “You can be a wiry, hang-dog, thirty-something, 6-foot-3 point and be the center of the basketball world.” Neel is referring to, of course, the Suns' erstwhile guard, Steve Nash.

I assume that, like me, you’re still laughing at the absurdity of that comment. Perhaps you need a moment to collect yourself. I suggest grabbing an immovable object, such as a table, or Vitaly Potapenko.

Now that we’ve all gathered ourselves, let’s dissect this argument. Does Neel truly expect us to believe that Steve Nash, a player who isn’t even the second-best player on his team, deserves to have his name on the same award as Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan? Does he think we’re that idiotic?

Yes, he does.

Why does this tick me off? For two reasons. One, it’s a stupid assertion made by a ridiculous columnist who is either na├»ve enough to believe his own nonsense or so eager to draw in readers that he’ll make outrageously brainless claims.

Two, it speaks to an element of our society that I detest like a gardener detests weeds. It’s the idea of flaunting your intelligence by supporting an unheralded person or idea. Cheering for Steve Nash is akin to saying you like reading Kerouac, or listening to the Velvet Underground. Since nobody you’ll talk to will be able to call you on your arguments, you’re home scot-free, the resident insider into what’s truly “in.”

Well, in this case, Neel has gone too far.

Let me be blunt. I hate Steve Nash. No, I’ve never met the man, and I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, but why I hate him has nothing to do with Nash the person. What I hate is white sportswriters fawning over him as if he carries the Da Vinci Code for decrypting exciting basketball. Add in the fact that he’s a Canadian and I live in Canada, and you can imagine how much Nash crap I have to hear every day.

I’ll admit that Nash is a fine player. In fact, he’s one of the five best point guards in the NBA. But that doesn’t make him any more of an MVP candidate than Gilbert Arenas.

Let’s face it. Nash went to a team with two bona-fide all-stars in residence, a shooting guard who is capable of scoring 20 points a game (Joe Johnson), and another shooting guard (Quentin Richardson) who is a rising talent. Did the Suns really need Steve Nash to make the playoffs this season?

Yes, the Suns are markedly better. But why does Nash get all of the credit and Q gets none? After all, Q plays more minutes (36 to 34). Doesn’t this mean he has had more of an impact than Nash, or at least as much?

Fine, Nash is more valuable than Q. But is he more valuable than Shawn Marion, a guy averaging 20 ppg, 12 boards, 2.2 blocks, and more than a 3 per game? Surely Nash isn’t more important than Amare Stoudemire, who’s at 26 ppg, with 9 boards and two blocks.

If you don’t believe me, listen to the stathead websites. Over at dougstats.com, the site’s author uses a complicated method he terms MyTendex to evaluate players based upon their overall contribution to the team. Where does Nash rank on the Suns?

Third, behind Stoudemire and Marion.

How about Points Above Replacement (PAR), which tracks how many points a particular player produces above and beyond what a replacement level player would contribute. In the offensive side of the equation, guess where Nash ranks in the NBA?

Ninth, behind, among others, Marion and Stoudemire.

Look, Nash is a neat player who hustles and throws cute passes and likes to flick his hair. So what? The bottom line is this: If you’re an NBA GM, and you’re allowed to sign any player in the league for this season only, with money as no object, how long before Steve Nash’s name comes up?

Exactly.

Let’s try one final example. Listed below are the stat lines from two NBA players for this season:

.....Min.....ppg.....apg....to/g...3pm...ftm...st/g...reb
A....34.0....15.6....11.0.....3.1.....29.....52....1.0....3.3
B....38.6....19.8.....8.6.....3.0.....33....103....1.5....3.0

Player A is the “MVP.”

Player B? Stephon Marbury.