Over the past few days, several prominent media types have wondered out loud about how anyone could not want to play with Steve Nash, the consensus (at least in the mainstream) greatest point guard in the league and ultimate distributor of the world. These writers’ takes have come somewhere between outrage and bewilderment. In almost all cases, people just can’t understand why Marion would ever want to leave Steve Nash.
Thankfully, many citizens of Blogburgh have responded with a more respectable view of this situation. In his take on the trade request, David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout wrote a paragraph so good that I will simply reproduce it here:
The Marion story flies in the face of two pieces of "conventional wisdom" that the mainstream media touts: 1) Everyone in the NBA would love to play with Steve Nash and would accept less money to do so; 2) Nobody in the NBA wants to play with Kobe Bryant. Therefore, rather than simply reporting the facts, it will not be too long before many media outlets spin this story to fit in with "conventional wisdom." It will be interesting to watch this unfold and see if the spin becomes an attack on Marion for being "selfish," an attack on Marion for not being that valuable of a player or if somehow someone figures out a way to blame this all on Bryant. Rest assured that the face value facts--Marion wants to be traded from Phoenix to the Lakers--will not be simply reported as such for very long.
I couldn’t put it any better. Instead of dismissing Marion’s issue with the Suns as unreasonable hogwash, let’s try to answer the heretofore rhetorical question and figure out how anyone could not want to play with Steve Nash. (I should also give props to everyone in the FD comments. The idea for this post started there.) Before starting this exercise, I’d like to make it clear that I imagine Steve Nash is fun to play with. Teammates have spoken well of him for years; Marion is certainly an exception and not the rule.
However, that doesn’t mean that Nash’s game doesn’t have some traits that would irk a player of Marion’s caliber. For all his skills as a distributor, Nash gets many of his assists after creating angles with his dribble. When he uses that tactic, he uses up the majority of the possession with the ball in his hands, meaning that the finisher really only has to catch the ball and lay it in. Logically, that shouldn’t be a problem for the finisher, but Nash’s controlling of the ball necessarily focuses most of the attention on him. The other players, who still receive a fair share of attention, become known more as finishers than they would be otherwise.
The media attention that Nash receives compounds this problem. It’s not uncommon for a point guard to get attention, but Nash’s reputation as Ultimate Team Player A-#1 doesn’t perfectly match his penchant for controlling possessions, although they do certainly match closely. Any praise given to Nash for being a fantastic teammate must sting a player that knows he’s capable of being more than a clean-up man, which is a role that Marion and the other Suns often play.
In the end, I think it’s exactly that knowledge that makes this situation tough for Marion. If he hadn’t been successful without Nash, I’m sure he’d be less willing to part, but the fact that Marion was an all-star before Nash arrived means that he knows he can get more attention on another team. His willingness to leave Phoenix might seem odd, but it’s not insane by any stretch.