Steve Nash Still Makes Phoenix Suns Title Contenders Even Without Amare Stoudamire

Steve Nash Still Makes Phoenix Suns Title Contenders Even Without Amare Stoudamire By some, the Phoenix Suns’ playoff run this spring may have been seen as a last stand.


Amare Stoudemire was in a contract year, Grant Hill was 37 years old, Steve Nash was 35 and the mentality was simple: Win now, or win never. But while the Suns came up short, losing the West finals in six to the vaunted Lakers, it would be foolish to say they’re done now. Nash is still alive and kicking, and the Suns have reloaded for the season that lies ahead.

2009-10 Record: 54-28 (second in Pacific Division, third in Western Conference, lost to Lakers in Western Conference finals)

Celtics’ record vs. Suns: 61-49 all time, 0-2 last season

Familiar faces: Jared Dudley (BC alum)

Key additions: Hedo Turkoglu (traded from Raptors), Josh Childress (free agent), Hakim Warrick (free agent), Dwayne Collins (draft), Gani Lawal (draft)

Key losses: Amare Stoudemire (signed with Knicks), Leandro Barbosa (traded to Raptors for Turkoglu), Louis Amundson (free agent, unlikely to return), Taylor Griffin (placed on waivers, unlikely to return)

Burning question: How much longer can Steve Nash keep this up?

Around the middle of next season, Nash will turn 37. Not a lot of teams have won championships in the NBA when their best player’s old enough to be president.

But you could argue that last year, Nash had his best season ever, old age be damned. His shooting percentages were insane — 50.7 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from 3-point range, 93.8 percent from the free-throw line. He put up 892 assists, a career high, to just 295 turnovers. And by playing through the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a broken nose, he showed more toughness than most NBA players can even dream of.

NBA stars don’t usually continue to blossom in their late 30s, but Nash has a lot going for him. He keeps his body in unbelievable shape, using the right combination of diet, exercise and discipline to maintain his tip-top athletic form past his prime years. He’s playing with teammates he loves in a system that’s perfect for him. And he continues to develop in the mental aspects of the game — smart shot selection, smart passing, mental toughness.

Nash doesn’t look like your conventional star player on a title contender. He’s too old and doesn’t have the glamour of a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade. But Nash is the man in Phoenix, and he’ll continue to be for another three years. Maybe more.

2010-11 outlook: Losing Amare will be a big blow, but the Suns’ plan is to band together newcomers Turkoglu, Childress and Warrick into a three-headed monster than can fill the scoring void left by the Suns’ departed All-Star. Will the Suns be a 54-win team and a serious title contender again this season? Maybe not, but they’re still a playoff team. Nash is still chugging along, and the supporting cast around him is still strong enough to make some noise out West.

Did you know? On June 4, 1976, the Suns and Celtics played one of the most memorable games in NBA Finals history. The two teams went to three overtimes in Game 5 of the Finals — they finally won 128-126 and went on to win the series in six. Jo Jo White was named Finals MVP.