It’s no secret that Steve Nash is one of the best point guards in the world. But unlike a player like Jason Kidd, who makes decisions so quickly that he doesn’t actually have to handle the ball very much, Nash thrives when he can dominate possessions. He’s at his best when probing the defense with dribble-drives and creating openings that didn’t exist before.
In other words, if you have him on your team, you want him to have the ball as much as possible, which is exactly what the Suns have done for six seasons. Except, if you take Alvin Gentry at his word several months before the season, Nash might play off the ball at times this year. Here’s what he told local radio station XTRA 910 (via PBT):
“I think for Hedo to have Steve Nash out there and for Steve Nash to have Hedo out there, you’re talking about a guy, he really is a facilitator Hedo is and we will put the ball in his hands. For the first time since I’ve been here we can use Steve as an off the ball shooter which he is great at. Probably one of the top five shooters in the league, but we just never had the opportunity to put him in that position.”
I also recommend reading the rest of the interview, because at one point Gentry uses the phrase “na-na-na-na poo-poo.” Apparently getting to use that phrase will be his primary method of motivating the Suns this season.
By all accounts, Gentry intends on starting Turkoglu this year, working under the assumption that his horrific season in Toronto was a blip rather than a sign of a downtrodden career. For Hedo to be as successful as possible, he needs to handle the ball — otherwise he’s just a lumbering shooter. Yet there’s something bizarre about asking Nash to play off the ball in order to accommodate a player who was the biggest free-agent bust of 2009-10.
However, it’s simply the position that the Suns find themselves in this season. Several weeks ago, I wrote that Phoenix’s summer moves showed little sense of purpose or direction. Now, Gentry finds himself in the unenviable position of sorting out a roster short on big men and long on wings and shooters. Playing Nash off the ball is just one example of the creative ideas Gentry will have to employ to make this work.
I doubt that Turkoglu will ever be the team’s primary ballhandler, and this plan might not work at all. But it’s a necessary step for Gentry as he tries to figure out what the Suns will look like without Amar’e Stoudemire. Last season, he mixed the Suns’ bench and starters to great effect. This challenge should prove to be much greater.