"Don't you realize? The next time you see sky, it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket."
Before we jump into this "historic" journey that is the 2010 NBA finals (the equivalent of two billionaires fighting for $1,000,000), let's give proper respect to your favorite team that's not your favorite team: The Phoenix Suns.
This movie match-up thing is close to it's breaking point (and we are all thankful we only have one left), but this one just might be optimistic enough to work. Getting some pleasantries out of the way: Nash looked like Sloth after getting hit in the eye, but is Mikey to the death. Amar'e is Corey Feldman. Grant Hill is Oscar-worthy in the Josh Brolin role of older brother who's not sure if they're allowed to be doing this. Leondro is Data and I guess Dudley gets requests for the Truffle Shuffle? Steve Kerr is Mikey's dad, ignoring his son's desire for stability and only thinking business. And whoa: Phil Jackson is Ma Fratelli.
Whatever, this is not about how they match up to the movie, this is about the feeling you first got watching Nash on the Suns and about how that era might be ending.
I don't know if kids still go to their friend Dave's house on a rainy Saturday to watch The Goonies for the first time, but they totally should. Because that's a seriously great movie memory to have. Seeing that movie at a time when I spent most non-school days traipsing through brooks, alleys and the backyards of strangers was perfect. Bouncing around what I thought to be unexplored, and perhaps toxic, areas with friends was revelatory, so watching kids in a movie do the same (and then actually find treasure and for-real bad guys) was remarkable—what I imagine it's like for chicks in high school rock bands to see Josie and the Pussycats for the first time. Or something.
Watching Nash in his first year on the Suns was similar in that it changed how I viewed the world. Him and D'Antoni took the two things I love most about the game I love most—dunks and three-pointers—and tried to execute them as often and as quickly as possible. They played so fast that you never even had the chance to think, "Gosh, I'd love to see an alley-oop now"—because they'd already done it twice. They were valiantly trying to rescue the League from the oppressive "Defense wins championships" salvo preached by teams like the Spurs and Pistons. And it looked like victory was a reality.
But then they had a few heartbreaking playoff series (looking at you 2007 Spurs series), and chatter about whether the Seven Seconds or Less style could actually trump defense in the playoffs got way too loud and we all panicked. The air was rank with depression and we could all feel the end's cold breath on our necks. Defeat seemed certain when D'Antoni left and the Suns signed Shaq six seasons after the thought of running with the Diesel on the floor was anything other than delusional.
Then, an unexpected flash of hope shone dimly. Some of Steve Kerr's questionable acquisitions (Jason Richardson, Channing Frye, et al) started working and, under southern gentleman Alvin Gentry, the team subtly emulsified into yet another devastating form of the smiling, many-armed offensive beast.
In the inexplicable third act (the 2010 season and playoffs), they beat the villain once (the Spurs), but they couldn't put him (this time the Lakers) away for good through shear good times and camaraderie. Say Queensbridge. So they are dead, maybe for good. Currently on the books for $62.8 million for the 2010-2011 season (which has a projected salary cap of $56.1 million), this current Suns varsity track and field team will not return.
I agree Steve.
But let's not bury our heads and ask to be pitied, because this year was as satisfying a nightcap as we could have asked for. The 2010 version of the Phoenix Steve Nashes may have been the most lovable, and definitely the silliest. They blessed us with some real goofy, redemptive, Sunday-afternoon-movie feel-good stuff. Grant Hill was LeBron James before LeBron James, then crashed as some sort of NBA cautionary tale... then he told us all how a resurrection really feels by becoming a certified defensive stopper. (Side note: Does anyone else question the Derek Fisher/Grant Hill dynamic? My gut tells me those two guys hate each other, because they each want to be known as the classiest guy in the league, and the other is encroaching.) Then, in his first year as a Sun, Channing Frye made 172 three-pointers on 392 attempts—after hitting 20 three-pointers total in his first four years in the league. It's like Jason Richardson left a bunch of anonymous comments on Frye's blog telling Frye that he's an underrated shooter, just so Richardson would have a buddy to shoot 400 threes with. Jared Dudley is an Internet pseudo-hero, Robin Lopez became some giddy form of big man necessity and Amar'e crushed and rewrote everything we know about trade rumors and contract years.
And perhaps most importantly for the future, their back-up point guard turned into Steve Nash Light Lime (with a slice of Manu), and if you look quickly enough, his name looks like Great Dragon. So yeah, they were the best and they will never come back.
But there is hope, because this last unexpected season taught us that maybe personnel isn't all that important here and D'Antoni's system was never the One-Eyed Willie treasure map we thought it was; success always did and forever will come from Nash's ability to extract singular talents from teammates, make role players ignore their shortcomings and turn a group of misfits into a cohesive threat.
So, even if (when) Amar'e leaves, and Kerr overpays for Matt Bonner and Roger Mason, Jr., Nash will most likely spend the off-season learning new angles and religions from watching Messi and Kaka, and come back with the recipe for turning lemons into a refreshing elixir of fast break shenanigans. And itsn't that really all we want from this man:
I don't think he's ready to ride up Troy's bucket just yet.