The NBA: Destination: Steve Nash

Steve Nash turns the corner in his last season in Phoenix. 
*Unless otherwise specified, all images are from the Associated Press.

The Phoenix Suns lost to the San Antonio Spurs today. They lost to a Spurs team that didn’t have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Gregg Popovich.

But the worst thing about today?

Today might have been, no, check that, today WAS Steve Nash’s last day as a Phoenix Sun. Today, because today is practically the end of Phoenix’s season, Nash became a free agent.

And though it’ll be long after a new NBA Champion is crowned before Nash has to formally announce his decision, I, for one, believe he won’t stay in Arizona. 

He’s leaving. The 38-year old Canadian who’s an amalgam of John Stockton, Pete Maravich, and Jason Kidd is looking at the twilight of his storied career, and I’m willing to bet he’ll be thinking of where he can find the deepest potential for a legitimate title run.

Not because a guy like Steve Nash “deserves” a title. I’ve never really bought that kind of notion. I mean, who doesn’t “deserve” a title, anyway? Gosh, even Brian Scalabrine “deserves” one, and, yes, he has one already.

But guys like Steve Nash, they are, what I’d like to call, WORTHY of a title. Because of their on-court resume. Because of how they’ve played. Because of how they’ve carried themselves. Because of the kind of role models they’ve become. (I like semantics. So sue me.)

Steve Nash is championship-worthy, but, depending on his decision on July 1, he can go down in history as one of those championship-worthy guys who never won a ring (like Stockton), or one of the guys who was able to snare one at the finish line, or close to it (like Kidd). 

So where can he go? Which teams can help him? Which teams can he help? Here are the top Steve Nash destinations for 2012 and beyond (thanks to Chris O’Brien of  Bleacher Report for the awesome ideas you’re about to ingest):

Destination: Toronto Raptors
Steve Nash back to his native Canada?

The Toronto Raptors have a Steve Nash-styled roster, with a bunch of athletes who can score 10 to 12 PPG. Nash can spread the ball out to Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza and even try sliding Jose Calderon over to shooting guard.

The Raptors have essentially two high draft picks this year since last year's pick, Jonas Valanciunas, will be coming over next season. The Raptors could wind up with Harrison Barnes, Jeremy Lamb or Bradley Beal in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Put all this around Steve Nash and you have a low-ego, high-scoring, fun team to watch in Toronto.

Problem: Same thing as before; if Nash wants to compete for a championship, this is not the best possible lineup.

Destination: Orlando Magic
A year ago, the idea of going to Orlando to throw lobs to Dwight Howard would have appealed to any point guard on the planet.

A year later, not as appetizing.

If you look past all the drama, it would be a good situation for Steve Nash. He would be an upgrade from Jameer Nelson and not only would he help Dwight Howard, he and Ryan Anderson would develop a strong pick-and-pop game at the top of the key.

Throw in all of the Magic's three-point shooters with Nash's assists and you have a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.

However, you can't really just "look past" all of the drama. This season in Orlando has been a nightmare, which is bizarre considering they are not yet out of the race for a No. 3 or 4 seed. Dwight Howard seems to be having an identity crisis and has shown more sensitivity to wanting to be liked than LeBron James ever did. We still don't know if Dwight even really wants to stay in Orlando long-term.

The upside of this is appealing for Steve Nash, but the downside should keep him far away.

Destination: LA Lakers
Kobe has about as much time left in his career as Steve Nash. The pairing would be all about winning right now.

What Mike Brown could do is put Kobe Bryant's minutes at a hard line of 38. Steve Nash he could set at 30.

That leaves 28 minutes for Ramon Sessions to fill in as shooting guard for Kobe and point guard for Steve Nash. Keep Steve Blake around as a security measure.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum would benefit with Steve Nash running the point. Nash would cure those periods of time when Kobe is not shooting well and the offense becomes stagnant.

The problem? Kobe needs the ball in his hands; Nash likes to spread it around. Can they gel together?

Destination: Miami Heat
There would be so many fights over who gets to play as the Miami Heat in NBA 2K13.

Steve Nash. Dwyane Wade. LeBron James. Chris Bosh.

On paper: Awesome. In a video game: Unstoppable. In real life: Definitely championship level.

Can you imagine being Steve Nash, someone who always averages above 10 APG regardless of who is on his team, dribbling the ball up the court and having the options of Wade, LeBron and Bosh? The Heat offense would be even more unstoppable.

Chris Bosh would see the biggest boost of anyone on the team from Nash's presence.

The problem? The Heat already have a distributor in the form of LeBron James. LeBron averages around seven assists per game and, like Carmelo in New York, needs to have the ball in his hands to make something happen. Playing as a catch-and-shoot guy with Steve Nash would not be LeBron's best option.

Offensively, I think Nash would make the Heat better, but it would take a little while to get the system working effectively.

Defensively, the Heat have to go against Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and possibly Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker in the NBA Finals. Do you really want a 38- to 41-year-old Nash, someone who has never been a defensive stopper (even in his younger days), guarding these stars?

The Heat may be better off sticking with LeBron as the key distributor, utilizing Mario Chalmers' defense and inserting Norris Cole as a spark off the bench.

Destination: Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash are best friends. They were fun to watch before and they will be fun to watch again. Most importantly, they won a ton of games together.

The Dallas Mavericks have been clearing up cap room to (seemingly) try and land Deron Williams. If Williams stays with the Nets, Nash will be able to land more money in Dallas than he would in Los Angeles or Miami.

Like the Lakers, this is a "go for it right now" situation—no building up for the future. Unlike the Lakers, or the Heat or Knicks for that matter, the Mavericks have a superstar who has proven to work well with a point guard like Nash.

This just makes perfect sense, right?
(image by D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
And it's not just Nowitzki. Remember how solid Nash made Shawn Marion look in their years together in Phoenix? I say bring in Boris Diaw, too, and give him the ol' Nash boost.

Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois—these are all the right pieces to have running around Nash. High-flying Brandan Wright would see a huge boost in his game. Jason Kidd could stick around as the backup point guard giving the Mavericks the best (in terms of their whole careers, not their current 40-year-old selves) one-two punch at point guard in NBA history.

Plus, the Mavericks will still have money left over to bring in another piece.

The fit works perfectly for Nash and works even better for the Dallas Mavericks.”

So, Steve Nash, you’re leaving Phoenix. That’s a foregone conclusion.

But, please, don’t go over to the dark side.

You have four other appetizing options, so, please, choose with your heart.

I, for one, hope your heart says Dallas. You and Dirk and Kidd? Oh, man, that would be awesome. Old man game, sure, but, still, freaking’ awesome.

April 23, 2012 Game Recaps:
SAS over POR, 124-89
The San Antonio Spurs have locked up another No. 1 seed. Now comes trying not to blow it again. Tim Duncan scored 18 points in what might have been his last game before the playoffs start this weekend, now that the Spurs have clinched the top spot in the Western Conference after beating the Portland Trail Blazers 124-89 on Monday night. The Spurs won their eighth straight, but won't care about the streak or little else with two now-meaningless regular season games left. All that will matter is their Big Three reaching the postseason fully healthy for the first time since 2008, and that likely means an easy week ahead for Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

PHI over NJN, 105-87 
Philadelphia secured the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and spoiled the Nets' final game in New Jersey, 105-87. Thaddeus Young scored all 15 of his points in the second half to help the 76ers make the postseason for the second straight year and eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks from playoff contention. The win moved Philadelphia (34-30) into a tie with the New York Knicks for the No. 7 seed with two games remaining in the regular season. Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand added 15 points apiece and Andre Iguodala had 14 points and nine assists for Philadelphia.

WAS over CHA, 101-73
John Wall had 16 points and 14 assists, Nene scored 18 points and Jan Vesely had 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting as Washington handed Charlotte its 21st straight loss. The Wizards have their first four-game winning streak since Dec. 9-13, 2007. The 28-point margin of victory equaled their largest in the season. Gerald Henderson had 19 points for the Bobcats, while D.J. Augustin added 15. If Charlotte (7-57) loses its final two games, they will finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. They play at Orlando on Wednesday and at home Thursday night against New York.

IND over DET, 103-97
Paul George scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. George made 13 of 15 free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Pacers. David West scored 20 points and Leandro Barbosa and Tyler Hansbrough added 13 points each for Indiana. Pacers coach Frank Vogel rested regular starters Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and George Hill since Indiana is locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Greg Monroe scored 18 points, Brandon Knight had 16 and Tayshaun Prince added 14 for the Pistons.

MEM over CLE, 109-101
Marreese Speights had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Marc Gasol also scored 17 points as Memphis won its fifth straight. Rudy Gay scored 15 points, O.J. Mayo had 14, Tony Allen added 13 points and a franchise-record eight steals for the Grizzlies, who won their 10th straight at home. Gay and Mayo led a rally that allowed Memphis to finally put the game away in the closing minutes. The Grizzlies pulled one-half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers hold the tiebreaker between the teams. Rookie Kyrie Irving had 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting for Cleveland, which lost its fifth in its last six games.

MIL over TOR, 92-86
Milwaukee is out of the NBA playoffs, despite getting 25 points from Brandon Jennings in a victory over Toronto. Milwaukee's postseason fate was determined earlier Monday night when Philadelphia beat New Jersey to clinch the eighth playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and eliminate the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova added 19 points and 15 rebounds for Milwaukee. James Johnson had 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost four straight games.
April 24, 2012 Game Recaps:
ATL over LAC, 109-102
Joe Johnson scored 28 points, Jeff Teague had 21 and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-102, on Tuesday night. Josh Smith chipped in with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who have won four of five heading into their regular season finale Thursday against the Mavericks. If they win -- or Boston loses to Milwaukee on Thursday -- the Hawks will have homecourt advantage over the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers' loss clinched the Pacific Division for the Los Angeles Lakers, who will have the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Blake Griffin scored 36 points and Chris Paul had 34 for the Clippers -- the second time this season they both had at least 30.

BOS over MIA, 78-66
With both teams resting most of their stars in preparation for a playoff push, Sasha Pavlovic scored a game-high 16 points to help Boston earn a 78-66 victory over the Heat at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all sat out for the Celtics, while Miami's "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also enjoyed the game from the sidelines. Paul Pierce did start for the Celtics but played just under 18 minutes and finished with eight points. Marquis Daniels added 13 for Boston, which is locked into the fourth spot in the East but trail Atlanta by one game for home court advantage in the first round after the Hawks also won on Tuesday. Dexter Pittman led the way for Miami with 12 points and James Jones added 11 in the loss, securing the top spot in the East for Chicago as it holds a 2 1/2 game lead over the Heat, who are locked into the second position.

OKC over SAC, 118-110
Kevin Durant poured in a team-high 32 points, including 15-of-16 from the free throw line, and grabbed nine rebounds in just three quarters of action as the Oklahoma City Thunder topped the Sacramento Kings, 118-110, on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Daequan Cook added 19 points and five rebounds, Russell Westbrook finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher added 11 points apiece and Kendrick Perkins netted 10 for the Thunder, who bounced back from a double-overtime loss to the Lakers on Sunday. Thunder guard/forward James Harden missed the game after getting elbowed in the side of the head by Metta World Peace in Sunday's loss. World Peace was suspended seven games by the NBA for his actions. DeMarcus Cousins netted 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Jason Thompson added 22 points and six boards and Travis Outlaw donated 20 points in the loss for the Kings, their third in four tries.

NOH over GSW, 83-81
Marco Belinelli's layup with 1.5 seconds remaining sent the Hornets past the Warriors, 83-81, on Tuesday. Golden State was up 81-76 with two minutes play, but didn't score again and a three-pointer from Belinelli and a layup from Greivis Vasquez preceded the Italian's game-winner. Belinelli finished with a game-high 23 points and Carl Landry added 14 for the Hornets, who will close their season in Houston on Thursday. Klay Thompson scored 16 to pace Golden State, which has lost nine of its last 10 games and will wrap up the season against San Antonio on Thursday.

UTA over PHX, 100-88
Al Jefferson went on a personal eight- point run in the fourth quarter and helped the Utah Jazz clinch the final postseason spot in the Western Conference with a 100-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Jazz ended a seven-game losing streak to the Suns and eliminated Phoenix from postseason contention in the process. Utah is currently the eighth seed in the West, 1 1/2 games behind the Nuggets. The Suns missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since a three-year hiatus from 1986-88. Jefferson finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, Paul Millsap added 26 and 15 and Derrick Favors also recorded a double-double with 13 and 11 to go with five blocks for Utah, which has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games and closes out the regular season at home against the Trail Blazers on Thursday. Steve Nash, in perhaps his final season in Phoenix with free agency looming in the offseason, totaled 14 points and 11 assists in the loss.

April 25, 2012 Game Recaps:
SAS over PHX, 110-106
Patty Mills scored 27 points and the depleted San Antonio Spurs beat Phoenix 110-106 on Wednesday night in a game overshadowed by the fact it could have been Steve Nash’s last in a Suns uniform. The crowd stood and chanted “We want Nash” with about 5 minutes to go, leading coach Alvin Gentry to put the 38-year-old point guard in the game for a few plays before removing him to rousing cheers. Nash will be a free agent after this season. Nash had eight points and seven assists. Completing his eighth season in Phoenix, the two-time league MVP left the game with 3:08 to go in the third quarter and probably would have stayed on the sideline had the crowd not demanded his return. 

CHI over IND, 92-87
Kyle Korver scored 20 points to help Chicago beat Indiana and remain tied for the best record in the league with one to play. The Bulls and Spurs are both 49-16 heading into Thursday’s season finales. Chicago hosts Cleveland, while San Antonio closes at Golden State. Carlos Boozer scored 16 points, and Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago. Derrick Rose finished with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting in 27 minutes. Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 22 points in his first career start for Indiana, which rested Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa with the No. 3 playoff spot in the East locked up. 

DEN over OKC, 106-101
Ty Lawson scored 25 points, Kenneth Faried added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Denver beat Oklahoma City to avoid the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant scored 32 points to extend his lead in the NBA scoring race, leaving Kobe Bryant in need of 38 points in his season finale Thursday night against Sacramento to claim his third scoring title and prevent Durant from becoming the seventh player to win three in a row. With a win Thursday at Minnesota, Denver would be the No. 6 seed and face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Otherwise, the Nuggets could fall to No. 7 and have a rematch with Oklahoma City. 

NYK over LAC, 99-93
JR Smith scored 21 points to help New York hold off Los Angeles and close in on the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points for the Knicks, who will draw Miami in the first round with one more win or a loss by Philadelphia. New York closes its season Thursday at Charlotte, which has one of the worst records in NBA history, while the 76ers visit Detroit. If New York loses and Philadelphia wins Thursday, the Knicks will fall to the No. 8 seed and face Chicago. The loss dropped the Clippers a half-game behind Memphis for the No. 4 seed in the West. Los Angeles needs the Grizzlies to lose to Orlando on Thursday to open the playoffs at home. 

ORL over CHA, 102-95
JJ Redick had six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points as Orlando sent Charlotte to its 22nd consecutive loss. Ryan Anderson added 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who snapped a three-game losing streak and secured the sixth seed in the East but lost forward Glen Davis to a sprained right ankle. His injury could drain the Magic’s already shallow pool of big men following Dwight Howard’s season-ending back surgery. D.J. Augustin scored 23 points for the Bobcats (7-58), who head into their season finale on Thursday needing to beat New York to avoid the worst winning percentage in NBA history.

PHI over MIL, 90-85
Evan Turner scored a career-high 29 points and Philadelphia beat Milwaukee despite resting some key players for the playoffs. Jodie Meeks added 27 points for the 76ers, who eliminated the Bucks from playoff contention with their victory over New Jersey on Monday. The 76ers rested Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. Brandon Jennings scored 19 points for the Bucks, who were playing short-handed in their home finale. The Bucks had only nine players take the floor, with Jennings the only regular starter on the court. Monta Ellis, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute all sat. 

WAS over CLE, 96-85
John Wall had 21 points and 13 assists to help Washington extend its longest winning streak since 2007 to five games with a win over Cleveland. Wall had 12 points, six assists and four steals in the third quarter, when he accounted for 24 of Washington’s 28 points and helped the Wizards open a 14-point lead. Wall added seven rebounds and seven steals. D.J. Kennedy led Cleveland with 12 points in his NBA debut, while Kyrie Irving, expected to be named the NBA’s rookie of the year next month, played only 10 minutes — all in the first quarter — of the Cavs’ home finale.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
April 23: Paul George (IND) – 27 
April 24: Blake Griffin (LAC) – 36 
April 25: Kevin Durant (OKC) – 32 

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
April 23: Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 15 
April 24: Al Jefferson (UTA) – 16 
April 25: Joakim Noah (CHI) – 14 

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
April 23: John Wall (WAS) – 14 
April 24: Steve Nash (PHX) – 11 
April 25: John Wall (WAS) – 13 

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
April 23: Tony Allen (MEM) – 8 
April 24: Travis Outlaw (SAC) – 4 
April 25: John Wall (WAS) – 7 

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
April 23: Tim Duncan (SAS), Elton Brand (PHI), & Tristan Thompson (CLE) – 4 
April 24: Derrick Favors (UTA) – 5  
April 25: Larry Sanders (MIL) – 5 

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
April 23: Danny Green (SAS) – 4 
April 24: Joe Johnson (ATL) – 6  
April 25: JJ Redick (ORL) – 6 

April 23, 2012 First Five
C – Tim Duncan (SAS) – 18pts, 8rebs, 4blks, 2asts, 1stl
F – Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 19pts, 15rebs, 2asts, 1blk
F – Paul George (IND) – 27pts, 10rebs, 4asts, 3stls
G – Joe Johnson (ATL) – 22pts, 13rebs, 4asts, 2blks, 1stl
G – John Wall (WAS) – 16pts, 14asts, 5rebs, 1blk

Tim Duncan, all 36 years of him, is going into the Playoffs
as a member of the #1 seed out West.
Honorable Mention:
Kyrie Irving (CLE) – 25pts, 4asts, 3stls, 2rebs
Wesley Matthews (POR) – 24pts, 6rebs, 4stls, 3 treys, 2asts
Jan Vesely (WAS) – 16pts, 6rebs, 4stls, 1ast

April 24, 2012 First Five
C – DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – 32pts, 7rebs, 2asts, 2stls, 1blk
F – Blake Griffin (LAC) – 36pts, 8rebs, 3asts, 1blk
F – Paul Millsap (UTA) – 26pts, 15rebs, 4asts, 3stls, 1blk
G – Joe Johnson (ATL) – 28pts, 7rebs, 6 treys, 3asts
G – Chris Paul (LAC) – 34pts, 8asts, 5rebs, 4 treys, 2stls

Honorable Mention:
Kevin Durant (OKC) – 32pts, 9rebs, 3 treys, 2stls, 1ast, 1blk
Al Jefferson (UTA) – 18pts, 16rebs, 4asts, 2blks
Marco Belinelli (NOH) – 23pts, 4rebs, 4asts, 3stls

April 25, 2012 First Five
C – Tiago Splitter (SAS) – 26pts, 5rebs, 1ast, 1blk
F – Blake Griffin (LAC) – 29pts, 10rebs, 6asts, 2stls
F – Kevin Durant (OKC) – 32pts, 5 treys, 5rebs, 4asts, 1blk
G – Evan Turner (PHI) – 29pts, 13rebs, 6asts, 2blks
G – Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 30pts, 9asts, 6rebs, 4blks, 3stls

Honorable Mention:
John Wall (WAS) – 21pts, 13asts, 7rebs, 7stls
JJ Redick (ORL) – 31pts, 6 treys, 3rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Ryan Anderson (ORL) – 24pts, 13rebs, 1ast, 1stl

Because he’ll probably never be a Sun again, and because he just might convert to the dark side, here are some of Steve Nash’s top plays:

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Associated Press and the Sports Network.

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