NBA@2: Why Steve Nash Isn’t Seeking A Trade
Up Close: Steve Nash
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash talks with HOOPSWORLD about not being able to retire, why he’s not asking the Suns to trade him to a contender, the state of the Suns and more in this exclusive interview!
Houston’s Driving Force
Internally, the Houston Rockets suspected they were going to get off to a slow start. They certainly didn’t communicate that to the players, but they saw it coming. Given that they played the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs twice, paid visits to Orlando, Memphis and both Los Angeles teams, there was a strong feeling that the team might struggle to win three of their first 10 games, and that’s exactly how many they won.
Since then, the team has had much better success. They won seven in a row after that rough start through a stretch of games that only presented two playoff teams – Portland and San Antonio – and Tim Duncan sat out the Spurs game. New addition Samuel Dalembert was gradually getting into game shape, which helped, but the real driving force behind the run was none other than point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry earned the starting spot last season while Aaron Brooks was out nursing a severe ankle injury, and he never looked back. This season he has been a triple-double waiting to happen, and is averaging 15.9 points, 8.8 assists and even 6.9 rebounds per contest. He is showing that he can absolutely take over games with crucial late scores or clutch assists, playing the best basketball of his career.
“Yeah. I mean, I believe so,” agreed Lowry in a recent interview with KILT in Houston. “Numbers don’t lie. Just given the opportunity that Coach McHale has given me and the trust that my teammates have given me and the organization, you don’t want to let anyone down. I have to do what I have to do to prove everyone right for believing in me and just have an opportunity to play a game I love.”
Like so many teams, especially those that made significant changes over the offseason, the Rockets struggled early on because of the rushed training camp and preseason schedule.
“It takes a while,” says Lowry. “New coaching staff, shortened season, shortened camp, having Sam coming in late with his contract situation, it definitely took a while for us to get it going, but we had the number one ranked schedule coming into the season, first ten games of the season so that definitely set us back a little bit. Once we had a chance to hit our stride and everyone got on the same page, Sam got into shape and Coach Mac implemented what he wanted to implement, things started to pick up and turn around.”
McHale’s approach, says Lowry, is less formal than that of former Rockets head coach Rick Adelman, now of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Oh, you know, with coach McHale, he’s really hands-on and wants to be there all day and talk to you all night. He loves basketball. Rick loves basketball, but he’s a professional coach. ‘You have your time to get better. When I come on the floor we’re ready to go. I’m coaching you, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that when we get on the floor.’ Coach Mac wants to talk to you, he wants to get a feel for you, he wants to really get to know you as a player and talk about basketball all the time. They’re both great, incredible head coaches and I’m lucky to be able to play for both of those guys.”
Samuel Dalembert wasn’t Houston’s first choice to replace retired center Yao Ming, but he did end up being the only starting center they could land in free agency. Some are surprised by his production of late, but Lowry is not among those.
“No, I’m not surprised at all. The guy has been in the league ten years now. He’s been shooting that jump-shot a long time. Many people don’t notice that but he’s an NBA player. He works at his game just like everyone else does so he must work on that shot. It goes in and sometimes you saw ‘whoa please don’t. Oh good job (laughing).’ You always have to have confidence in your teammates. He’s a fun-loving guy, he’s out there helping us, you see what he’s doing defensively, shot blocking and he had 15 rebounds. That’s what he’s doing.”
At the heart of Houston success this season, has been Lowry, the team’s leader on and off the court. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, with teams like the Los Angeles Lakers starting to wonder if they might pry Lowry away from the Rockets. Sources close to the situation in Houston, however, believe Lowry is only scratching the surface of his potential, and they have yet to see the offer that would convince with their prize floor leader.
Don’t Blame D’Antoni?
It’s an established fact that the easiest thing to do when a sports team isn’t performing as well as expected is to fire the head coach. He doesn’t have to be traded or negotiated with, he can simply be fired and the team moves on. It buys the team at last half a season with the media and it stems the tide of fan uproar, at least briefly.
It is for this reason and this reason alone that New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni’s name comes up regularly as someone who is likely to lose his job in the near future. It’s not that he isn’t a good coach, it’s that his team is sitting at 7-11 on the season after being hyped up as a probable contender.
The favorite subject of those who are critical of D’Antoni is that his team doesn’t play any defense. That may be true, but that’s not really D’Antoni’s issue. After all, he has a well-earned reputation as a coach who focuses primarily on the offensive end of the floor and pays little or no attention to the defensive end. He also has two All-Star players in Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire who aren’t completely aware that there even is a defensive aspect to the game.
No, the real problem in New York is similar to a problem being faced by a large number of teams league-wide, which is that his shooters can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Shooting is down across the NBA, with the league as a whole hovering near historic lows.
“It’s got to be a willing thing from everybody,” Stoudemire said after the Knicks lost to Cleveland. “We all have to be willing to space the court, willing to move the ball. It has to be something that we all have to buy into. It works, and it’s been proven that it works.”
Stoudemire should know; he’s had great success in D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense for years, even without defense being much of an issue. The Knicks have lost seven of their last eight games, breaking 100 points in just two of those, and are near the bottom of the league in shooting at just 41.9%. Compare that to last season, when they shot 46.7% from the field and it’s easy to see where the issue lies.
As CBS Sportsline’s Ken Berger points out in his latest piece, the Knicks are not quite ready to give up on D’Antoni. They are hopeful that a healthy Baron Davis can serve as electro-shock therapy for their offense, and that Carmelo Anthony can get past whatever it is that is throwing his game out of alignment. If those two things happen the Knicks could begin to quickly make up ground in the Eastern Conference. Even with their rough start they are only a half-game out of the playoff picture.
To say the least, however, the clock is ticking. If the Knicks don’t turn it around soon, D’Antoni is sure to take a bullet for the team, justified or not.
That’s just how it works in professional sports.
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