About an hour before getting set to take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Steve Nash scurried from the Phoenix Suns’ locker room to the practice court to put up some extra shots. Nash continues to work diligently on his craft, taking advantage of every chance to improve, which has made him an incredibly efficient point guard, even at 38.
Nash is six years removed from winning back-to-back to most valuable player awards. But he is set to make his eighth all-star appearance next weekend, which is a testament to his longevity and patience, considering that his ascension to all-star status took six seasons.
John Wall stated recently that he was disappointed that he couldn’t become an all-star in his second season, with him getting off to a poor start and the Wizards among the worst teams in the NBA. But with the Suns set to host the Wizards on Monday at US Airways Center, Nash said Wall shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture and stay focused on getting better despite his current circumstances.
“If I had to advise him, I’d just tell him, ‘Stick with it. Don’t get down. Don’t get frustrated,’ ” Nash said before handing out 14 assists and scoring eight points in a 102-90 win over the Lakers. “Think long term. Think of all the work he puts in daily now and if that continues, think about the dividends that will pay three, five, seven years down, not right now, right now, right now. He’s got a long career ahead of him.”
Nash is in his 16th season, but only he rarely played his first two seasons in Phoenix and even got booed by home fans in Dallas before finally having a breakthrough.
“My situation was totally different,” said Nash, who was drafted 15th overall in 1996. “He was the No. 1 pick, he was thrown in the fire and he’s really got to produce for his team right away. Mine, I sat on the bench and watched Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd. Totally different and both can be great. It’s great that he’s getting experience and doing it. I tried to make the most of my situation. I just tried to learn and practice hard and get better off the court.
“You can look at it both ways,” Nash continued. “A lot of people said, ‘It’s too bad you didn’t get to play right away.’ If you get experience, you do need to get out there and make mistakes in order to improve. That was my path. His is the opposite. He doesn’t have guys to watch and follow, but he’s getting the reps and experience. But the key is making the most of your situation. So he’s got to make the most of the fact that he is out there learning on the fly and take that as a blessing rather than looking at it like, ‘Ah, they are throwing me in the fire.’ This is great, ‘I don’t have to be the best in the league right now, I can be there three or four, five or six years.’ He’s got to stay positive. All the work he puts in now will pay off in the future.”
Wall met Nash as a rising senior four years ago when he participated in Nash’s skills academy in New Jersey. In two games last season, Nash averaged 18.5 points and 15.5 assists against Wall and led the Suns to two lopsided wins by a combined 35 points. Wall had 11.5 points and 13 assists against Nash.
“He’s a terrific player,” Nash said. “Very young still. He’s only just getting started and he’s already had a lot of success individually. I think he’s got a tremendous passion for the game to go with his ability so, he’s going to just keep getting better and better.”