Nash has made quite a journey

Canada's Steve Nash has worked hard on his mind and body to achieve his status as one of the NBA's...

Canada's Steve Nash has worked hard on his mind and body to achieve his status as one of the NBA's premier players. (Toronto Sun File/Alex Urosevic)

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

If anyone understands how it is that Steve Nash became Superman -- and really, how can it be explained? -- maybe Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is the guy.

He was smart enough to draft Nash, dumb enough to trade him away, smart enough to know he needed him back in free agency.

But to get to today, where Nash may be on his way to a third consecutive NBA MVP award, you have to go back with Colangelo to the beginning. Back to the 1996 NCAA basketball regionals.

"Danny Ainge (then Phoenix coach) liked him from the beginning," Colangelo said. "I went to see him, he was what we call fleshy. He was somewhat pudgy. There was some doubt as to whether he was going to be able to keep up.

"The first game of those regionals, he torched the guy he was playing against and his team won. The next day, Jacque Vaughn completely locked him up and he was a good defensive player. So you're thinking, if he can get shut down like this, can he get by with faster, quicker guards?"

Still Ainge wanted him. He kept talking about Nash's basketball IQ. "In Phoenix, just like here, we did everything on a consensus basis. The consensus was, we wanted him. When pick No. 15 was getting closer, we were getting pretty excited that he was still available."

With the second pick in the draft, Isiah Thomas took Marcus Camby. Later on, a high school kid named Kobe Bryant was selected.

When the Phoenix Suns made their draft announcement, their fans booed.

The team already had Kevin Johnson, a star point guard. Soon, the Suns would have Jason Kidd, a star point guard.

Nash was the best third point guard on his own team, just nobody knew it.

"Ultimately, we had to trade him," Colangelo said. "We kind of gave Steve the choice. We said to him, we want to take care of you (financially) but we don't have the room. We were paying Johnson X and Kidd Y, we couldn't afford to give him starter's money even though he was playing starter's minutes.

"Steve said he wanted to stay, but he'd liked to get paid for it. We mutually agreed if there was a deal out there, we'd make it."

Colangelo traded Nash to Dallas for a draft pick that turned out to be Shawn Marion.

"We traded away a great player and got a great player with our pick. It worked out well for both teams," Colangelo said.

Well, yes and no. The Suns got Marion but they kind of lost their way. Nash struggled when he first got to Dallas, was once offered to the Raptors, but Glen Grunwald didn't think much of him.

Then came free agency three years ago.

"We traded Stephon Marbury and (Penny) Hardaway to New York for the expiring contract of Antonio McDyess. The real impact of the deal was getting the cap space," Colangelo said. "That space would give us the ability to go after Nash, Kobe or Tracy McGrady. We had this plan and knew the direction in which we wanted to go.

"The plan was all laid out in March, months before July. Everything was geared to that July 1 target."

Nash was the target. In fact, the Suns produced a 100-page coffee table book to seduce Nash into returning to Phoenix (as if anyone needs to be convinced to go to Phoenix).

"We did this book about what Steve had done for us, our vision for the future, our vision for him. It talked about the past with us. It was a nice way to remind him about the roots he had in the organizations.

"The most difficult thing was to break him from the close relationship he had with Dirk (Nowitzki). I think (Dallas') approach turned him off. That day we made a deal with him."

A six-year contract for $66 million US.

In retrospect, a ridiculously low figure considering the outcome.

"Did we think we were getting a potential three-time MVP?" Colangelo said. "Nobody would have thought that.

"But you have to give all the credit to Steve. To see, physically, how his body has changed, how hard he had worked, he is without a question one of the most conditioned players in the NBA.

"There's no (MVP) debate anymore. There's nothing to question."

For the record, Vaughn still is playing in the NBA. He averages 1.4 points a game in San Antonio. He doesn't shut down Steve Nash anymore.


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