PHOENIX -- Mike D'Antoni is one of the more personable head coaches in the NBA, but his smile turned to a frown yesterday when it was suggested that his star point guard Steve Nash has shown to be a less than an MVP-calibre player this season.
It has been suggested in a few quarters that the Phoenix Suns 4-5 start (not including last night's game against the Raptors) proves that not only was the Canadian Nash not really the NBA's true MVP last season, he wasn't even the Suns' MVP.
Yes, Phoenix has struggled with all-star forward Amare Stoudemire out with a knee injury this year, but D'Antoni said his team would have struggled just as much with Nash gone and Stoudemire in the lineup.
"That's really bad (when people say that)," D'Antoni said. "Steve's doing everything. The guy's unbelievable."
Nash is averaging 16.6 points per game, which is actually more than a point ahead of last year, and an NBA-best 11.4 assists, the same as last year. D'Antoni said that is the main reason why, even though they have been playing below .500, the Suns still are leading the NBA in points-per-game (105).
"That comes from Steve Nash," D'Antoni said. "He's always going to create a lot of points.
"He's very unselfish and that leads to other guys being unselfish, so with him on the team, I never worried about the points. He just needs to be Steve Nash and that is so good, it's ridiculous.
"Yes, we are missing some athleticism and stuff Amare gave us that you can't reproduce. He's the only one in the world that can do some of that stuff," the coach said.
"(But) I was talking to Steve (on Monday) and he realized that last year he probably played at a level that only three guys in history have ever played. So it's hard to say, 'Okay, you have to step it up from there.' I don't know how you do that. To perform at the highest level, you need the pieces around you."
D'Antoni said that other teams are keying on Nash more this season in the absence of Stoudemire, who averaged 26 points and 8.9 rebounds last year. But both the coach and point guard believe that the Suns will rally and make a strong playoff run once Stoudemire returns. Nash did admit that there have been times when he has tried to do too much with Stoudemire out.
"Sometimes," Nash said after the Suns' shootaround at America West Arena. "I think more than anything, I've put too much pressure on myself thus far. We just have to enjoy it, make the most of it and try to get better every day."