Let me first start off by saying, Celtics fans, call off the angry mob—this is not an indictment on Rajon Rondo.
I absolutely love watching him play and believe he has top-five player in the NBA potential. He has a such a unique blend of creativity, toughness, tenacity, and basketball IQ that if I were starting an NBA team today, Rondo would be the second point guard on my board behind only Bulls guard Derrick Rose.
This article is also not a reactionary piece to last night's Suns victory over the Lakers in Game Three because, honestly, Steve Nash wasn't that much better in Game three than he was in either of the first two games.
And this also isn't a bold prediction article where I stand atop a mountain and proclaim that the Suns will come back in the Western Conference Finals, either. Because, quite frankly, saying so is both mathematically illogical and slightly idiotic.
All negativity aside, Steve Nash is still by far the best remaining point guard in the playoffs.
The reason Steve Nash is the best point guard remaining began after the 2003-2004 season when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is one of the smartest business men of our generation, decided against re-signing a 30-year-old point guard with a bad back who is a defensive liability on his best day.
Normally a smart business decision, right?
Well, Nash set out to prove Cuban wrong and prove him wrong Steve did. In his first season in Phoenix, Nash took a 29-win Suns team and instantly turned them around. The 2004-2005 Suns finished with 62 wins (the best record in the NBA) and Nash won the league's MVP award.
And not only was this Phoenix team great, it was also incredibly fun to watch. Running new coach Mike D'Antoni's run-'n'-gun offense, Nash's Suns took full advantage of NBA's ban on hand-checking and scored a whopping 110.4 points per game.
The 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns also had about as much playoff success as one could expect from a team that had won just 29 games the year before, losing in the Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs.
However, the combination of fun and playoff success was short-lived.
Over the next four seasons, a combination of Suns owner Robert Sarver's blatant cheapness (he sold multiple draft picks, including aforementioned Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, got rid of Joe Johnson for salary purposes, and wouldn't pay Mike D'Antoni), horrible luck (Amare leaving the bench, anyone?), and GM Steve Kerr's initial ineptitude (Trading for Shaq, hiring Terry Porter, etc.) slowly killed seven-seconds-or-less basketball.
That's all without mentioning the Suns' seeming Curse of the San Antonio Spurs (the Suns bowed out of the playoffs to San Antonio in three of the first four years of Nash's second stint in Phoenix).
All of these circumstances would drive even the sanest men on the planet completely berserk.
However, for Steve Nash, they helped create the quality that makes him the best point guard left in the playoffs: his leadership.
Once again, pitchforks away, Boston—I'm not saying Rondo isn't a leader. What I am saying is Rondo is in the process of becoming a leader. He has three other strong leaders that help carry his burden. And it's also less than a year since Celtics GM Danny Ainge secretly tried to trade Rondo last offseason because Ainge felt Rondo was a derivative force in the Celts' locker room.
However, unlike Rondo, Steve Nash has completed his evolution into being a great leader. He has shown an undying loyalty to both the Phoenix Suns franchise, its fans, and he fellow teammates along with taking an unparallelled off-the-court leadership position. And, in my opinion, leadership is just as important as skill to a point guard.
Nash's leadership and his willingness to be an ambassador for the Suns franchise exposed itself on July 21, 2009 when, after Nash's worst season of his second Phoenix tenure, he signed a two-year, $22-million extension instead of readying himself to become part of the 2010 free agency bonanza.
He also continued to show his evolution throughout the season—basically creating careers for Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, as well as convincing former Charlotte Bobcats star Jason Richardson to take his rightful place as a role player.
I'm a regular listener to Bill Simmons' B.S. Report podcast and hearing Jared Dudley speak ravingly about Nash's off-field leadership only added to my adoration of Nash as a person: he regularly counsel's the younger players on how to eat, how to avoid Roethlisbergerian mistakes, etc.
Nash also looked on idly as Phoenix shopped Nash's right-hand man Amare Stoudemire at the trade deadline and asked only for the same thing Nash had given the Suns when he signed his extension: faith.
When GM Steve Kerr listened to his star point guard and granted the faith he asked for and the Phoenix Suns took off and never looked back. Over the second-half of the season, they compiled the NBA's best record, slayed their Spurs dragon, and became everyone's sentimental favorite to win the NBA
Hey, Suns fans, remember when I said it was both mathematically improbable and slightly idiotic to believe you can win the Western Conference Finals?
Well, maybe you just gotta have faith.