Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nash causes mental torment

Pick and roll game drives opposition coaches crazy

  • Print

LOS ANGELES -- Steve Nash can be tough on coaches.

Scheming to stop his relentless pick-and-roll game often leaves even the best tacticians futilely scribbling on whiteboards.

"The agony he caused before games, during games and after games trying out how to figure out how you were going to do it better ... " former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said, his voice trailing off, "He's taken years off coaches' lives."


The newest Los Angeles Laker has also left heartache in his wake.

One of the most difficult losses that Don Nelson endured in a 34-year, Hall of Fame coaching career involved Nash leaving the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2004 to sign as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns.

"It deflated my desires there because he was my favorite player," Nelson recalled in a phone interview from his home in Maui. "To lose him killed me. I tried my best to deal with it. It's not that I stopped trying or anything, but there was a little something cut out of my heart losing Nash."

Now there's presumably a massive bounce in Lakers coach Mike Brown's step after Nash agreed Wednesday to a three-year, $27 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix.

Brown can't comment until the free-agent moratorium ends Wednesday, but Kobe Bryant was ebullient when the Lakers star met with reporters Friday in Las Vegas after Team USA's first practice in preparation for the Olympics.

"He gives us a much, much better chance," Bryant said of the Lakers' title hopes.

Those who have coached Nash say the two-time most valuable player does more than provide Bryant with a dynamic point guard, something that has been missing for most of his 16 seasons with the Lakers.

"It really goes beyond that," said Mike D'Antoni, who coached Nash in Phoenix from 2004 to 2008. "The way Steve is as a teammate, the way he sets the tone, the way the team kind of takes on his persona. As a coach, that's the best thing in the world. It's easy to coach. He's taking care of the chemistry. You just coach."

Of course, it's hard not to be popular when your primary focus is getting others the ball.

And Nash, 38, has done it better than anyone besides Jason Kidd since turning pro in 1996. His 9,616 assists rank fifth on the NBA's all-time list, and he has led the league in that category in each of the last three seasons and in six of the last eight.

He's hardly one-dimensional, though.

Nash is routinely among the top three-point shooters in the NBA (career 42.8 percent) and is second all-time in free-throw accuracy.

"He's an unbelievably efficient offensive player," said Van Gundy, who is now an analyst for ABC and ESPN. "You just don't see guys shoot 50 percent, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line and make the passes he can make. It's pretty amazing."

Van Gundy said he anticipated the Lakers would run far more pick-and-roll plays with the ambidextrous Nash, who always seems to be able to make the right pass to players cutting toward the basket in heavily congested areas.

Though the Lakers' roster is configured differently than that of the Suns, who spaced the floor with three-point shooters, it does offer something Nash has never previously experienced: a pair of 7-foot targets in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and an MVP teammate in Bryant.

"It's a perfect scenario," Nelson said. "Kobe really needs someone to get him a shot every once in a while. He's one-on-two about half the time."

Nelson said Nash's game hasn't changed much since the veteran coach persuaded him to become more of a scorer during his six seasons with the Mavericks from 1998 to 2004.

Not that it was an easy sell.

The pass-first point guard was a reluctant shooter, Nelson said, who modeled his game after John Stockton, the NBA's all-time assist leader. The coach told Nash that he was a better shooter than the Utah Jazz legend and needed to score more to help Dallas win the Western Conference.

"I was trying to get him to be a 20-10 guy," Nelson said, referring to his proposed breakdown of averages for points and assists, "but he's so unselfish that he could care less about the scoring."


-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2012 B7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google