PHOENIX -- Steve Nash looked a bit sheepish when spotted by a couple of Toronto journalists as he arrived at the US Airways Center yesterday.
Instead of walking from the arena parking lot to the Phoenix Suns locker room, a distance of about two court-lengths, Nash had hitched a ride on an electric cart.
Not exactly fitting in with his image as one of the NBA's hardest workers.
But not to worry. Nash's renowned work ethic was in full view a couple of hours later when, during what was supposed to be a break from the Sun's up-tempo practice, the Victoria, B.C., native ran around the outside of the team's practice court while dribbling a ball before it was time to re-enter the scrimmage. As usual, he also was the final player to leave the court after practice, spending an extra half hour working on his jump shot.
It's those little things, that extra, subtle bit of work every day, that has been the secret to the easy-going Canadian's success in the NBA as he rolls toward a possible third-consecutive league MVP Award.
After becoming only the ninth player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back- to-back seasons, Nash definitely is on-course to capture his third in a row as he is averaging a career-high 19.8 points and an NBA-best 11.4 assists per game this season.
His numbers tell the story. No NBA guard has averaged at least 20 points and 11 assists since Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson did in in 1989-90. Nash also is vying to become the first NBA player to lead the league in assists and average double figures in assists per game in three consecutive seasons since John Stockton (1987-89), and is flirting with the possibility of become the first NBA guard to average at least 20 points and 10 assists since Tim Hardaway in the 1992-93 season.
However, getting him to even acknowledge the possibility of a third MVP title is like pulling teeth.
"You guys ask me about it every day. But other than that, I don't really think about it," Nash said. "I didn't think about it the past two years. I really just want to enjoy the games, enjoy my teammates and try to get better and have as much fun as I can and make the most of the season."
At 32 and with a cranky back, Nash is surprising everyone by putting together a career season, both in terms of individual stats and by helping the Suns to a 17-6 record and a 14-game winning streak. A victory tonight against the visiting Raptors would set a franchise record of 15.
Nash clearly is a man on top of his game, though he is quick to credit high-profile teammates Amare Stoudemire, who is fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage (62%), and Shawn Marion, who is averaging 9.3 rebounds and two steals per game.
"I feel like I'm a little better in all areas and I've taken a lot of pride in trying to be the best teammate I can be," Nash said. Jalen Rose, the popular ex-Raptor who was signed by the Suns Nov. 7 after being waived by the Knicks, said that he has a new appreciation for Nash since joining Phoenix.
"I knew he was two-time MVP and all of that great stuff, but I see how he really makes guys better," said Rose, who is averaging 10 minutes and 3.9 points with Phoenix. "I see guys get 20-25 points without dribbling, and that's amazing. He really is a person that makes this team go."