Canada's best, already

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

If there was any doubt before, there should be none now: With half a year to go, Steve Nash already is Canada's athlete of the year.

That should have been apparent before today, when he will be presented with the MVP award in the National Basketball Association. Whether he deserved to win or came second -- and a sound argument can be made for either position -- what can't be disputed is the level of the accomplishment, which ranks among the greatest with relationship to Canadians playing professional sport.

It is right there with Larry Walker winning a National League MVP award in 1977. Or, Ferguson Jenkins not just winning a Cy Young Award but ending up top three in balloting on five different occasions.

Once upon a time, just getting to the NBA seemed an unlikely dream for most Canadians who played basketball -- even for the diminutive Nash. Winning an MVP award wasn't even on the radar screen, until this spectacular season.

THIS AND THAT

Big week to be a Canadian named Nash. Rick Nash scoring all those goals for Team Canada makes you wonder: Why didn't he get an invite for the World Cup team last September after leading the NHL in goal-scoring as a teenager? ... If, somehow, junior phenom Sidney Crosby ends up in Columbus after some kind of draft lottery, would the Blue Jackets be obliged to go out and sign Cory Stillman? That would give them a team with Crosby, Stillman and Nash ... Another Nash fact: He has scored 58 goals in his first two NHL seasons. The 29 players drafted right after him have combined to score 53 times ... Making its debut soon at Churchill Downs, Coach Que, a three-year-old St. Louis-trained horse named for former Blues coach Joel Quenneville.

HEAR AND THERE

Memo to Vernon Wells: April is over. Time to start hitting ... Greg Gross played 17 years as an outfielder in the big leagues and hit just seven home runs, or one every 535 at bats. Alex Rios is in his second season in the majors, but has one home run in 526 at bats heading into yesterday ... The difference between David Bush and Ted Lilly thus far: One has no luck, the other has no stuff ... Can't believe moving Tony Womack to left field and bringing up Robinson Cano to play second base is going to fix anything with the very broken Yankees ... Biggest Yankees problem, besides a battered pitching staff: Nobody starts selling off their assets in early May. It's not a buyer's market for those with big money until the summer hits ... Not living so well off his name: Pete Rose Jr., is batting .174 with no homers and no RBIs for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.

SCENE AND HEARD

Time was, I could name the entire starting lineup of the Kansas City Royals. Now, I barely know any player not named Mike Sweeney ... Fresh out of junior, Jeff Carter leads the American League Hockey with six playoff goals. And when the NHL resumes play, he should walk right into the Philadelphia Flyers lineup ... My initial reaction was that John Tavares -- or any soon- to-be 15-year-old -- is too young for junior hockey. But upon reading the criteria set out by the Ontario Hockey League panel to establish what is thought to be exceptional, I can't argue with their decision. They did thorough work here ... Sam Mitchell should do more long stints on radio. It makes him all the more human and likable ... The betting around is that there will be an NHL settlement within the next two months: Both sides now understand they have to change their positions to get a deal done.

AND ANOTHER THING

Ricky Ray will hang around the NFL so long as he gets paid. But once he doesn't, look for a bidding war between the Ticats, Argos and Eskimos to emerge for the former Edmonton quarterback ... The phoniest statistic in baseball is fielding percentage. The way official scorers differ from stadium to stadium, some defensive statistics are almost meaningless ... Wouldn't it poetic, or at least funny, if P.J. Carlesimo ended up coaching Latrell Sprewell in Minnesota? ... And Drew Gooden, on his up and down NBA career: "I've had to overcome a lot of diversity." ... New name for the Jeff van Gundy-Mark Cuban officials' controversy in the NBA: The Cuban Whistle Crisis ... Kellen Winslow Jr., who called himself a Hall of Fame player before he played a single down in the NFL, was apparently riding to Canton when he was injured in a recent motorcycle crash that now threatens his second season ... And hey, whatever became of Billy Red Lyons?


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