January 25, 2012
Nash the master of the pick-and-roll
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
PHOENIX - Not that he needed a reminder, but Dwane Casey got one just the same.
Watching the Phoenix Suns take on the Dallas Mavericks from his Phoenix hotel room, Casey once again was watching one of the best in the world run one of the oldest plays in the game to near perfection.
The play was the pick-and-roll, a staple in every successful offence in the game and the player was Canada’s top export to the basketball world, Steve Nash.
And not that he wasn’t already planning it this way, but the morning film study was almost wholly devoted to the pick-and-roll defence.
“They are a multiple pick-and-roll team and Nash is one of the best in the world as far as a pick-and-roll offence is concerned,” Casey said. “That’s what we spent most of our time on today. Being ready for different angles, different conditions, different types of pick-and- rolls and making sure we’re prepared for those.”
Nash is the master at it and now he’s comfortable with Marcin Gortat, the 6-foot-11, 240 pound centre from Poland who was originally drafted by the Suns in 2005 but began his NBA career with the Orlando Magic before finding his way back in the deal that took Hedo Turkoglu back to Orlando.
Casey couldn’t help but gush about Nash, who even at 37, is in a class by himself running the pick-and-roll.
“Any time you commit two (defenders) to the ball you really put yourself in a vulnerable position and that’s what Steve Nash does,” Casey said. “He gets two people engaged with the ball and that’s when he makes his decision. Whether it’s the roll guy (he passes to) or the weak-side guy or the shot for himself. He’s the best in reading that situation. It’s the oldest play in the book, the most effective play in the book and you’re just now even seeing college teams getting into the pick-and-roll whereas a long time you might only see two. Now they’re coming around.”
For Nash it’s old hat. Even two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, Nash is getting it done.
His 53% shooting percentage is right up there with the best shooting season he has ever had. He’s averaging 14.3 points a game, which is down somewhat from even a year ago, but the assists are up to 10.1 a night at the moment.
“He’s one of the best in the world and I’ve admired him since his high school days when I was in Seattle,” Casey said. “All the young players should watch him and learn how to play the pick-and-roll and most of all how to be a point guard.”
Casey is a huge proponent of solid fundamental basketball and watching some of the old hands like Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and even Shawn Marion the night before had him lauding the type of game he loves.
“Just watching (Nash) and Kidd and you can throw Grant Hill in there too ... that was some of the best fundamental basketball that you can possibly see. It was beautiful. It was good to see the type of basketball they were playing. It was good fundamentals. It wasn’t slam dunk, it wasn’t dipsy-do, it was just good, fundamental basketball.”
Nash, as is his routine did not speak with the media before Tuesday’s game. Having played the night before in Dallas there was no shootaround.
But there have been plenty of suggestions from the media and others within the game that the time might be right for Nash to head elsewhere, or even for the Suns to send Nash somewhere.
Nash signed a two-year extension in 2009 that keeps him under contract to Phoenix through the end of the current season. At his advanced age and the Suns no where near contention, it might seem like a no-brainer to some, but Nash said he will not ask for a trade.
In an interview with ESPN’s Marc Stein earlier this month, Nash made his position very clear. He won’t be asking for a trade now or any time in the future.
“It’s not my style,” Nash told Stein. “Maybe I’m old school, but I feel like that’s not my place to give up on my team, give up on my teammates. I signed a contract and made a commitment ... I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and the organization to fight.”