Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Nash almost a Grizzlie? Bibby almost a Sun?

Some interesting comments recently made by a Dallas assistant (Larry Riley) who was the first player personnel director for expansion Vancouver. A couple of revelations:

Nash one that got away

- Vancouver considered trading down from the No. 3 pick in the 1996 NBA draft to somewhere in the teens to justify taking Santa Clara PG (and native Canadian) Steve Nash with their first ever pick. The feeling was Nash would solidify the NBA in Canada. Instead, they chickened out and selected Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Nash was selected by Phoenix with the No. 15 pick. Sidebar: I was friends with an asst. coach for Vancouver at the time. We both agreed (days before the draft) Adur-Rahim was the best all-around player in the draft. Another reason why I'm not employed in the NBA. I don't believe he's currently employed, either.

- Vancouver later pushed the Suns in an attempt to acquire Steve Nash (who was backing up Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson at the time). The Grizzlies offered Mike Bibby, but the Suns balked. Instead, they sent Nash to Dallas in exchange for Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells, Martin Muursepp and a future first-round pick.

A couple things stand out in my memory:

- The Nash trade was neccesitated by the fact the Suns had acquired Jason Kidd in 1997. With Kevin Johnson on the bench and fending off retirement after a career beleaguered by hamstring injuries, the Suns couldn't afford to keep three point guards on the roster. Still, it's amazing to think three All-Star point guards were vying for playing time on the same team.

- Nash was not highly regarded in Phoenix because he didn't play much defense. It was (wrongly) believed Nash needed to be in a Utah-type plodding offense to take advantage of his skills and hide his (perceived) lack of footspeed. Fans were totally focused on Kidd. It wasn't until Nash was teamed with Finley (another former Suns draft choice) and Nowitzki -- and allowed to play his frantic style -- that he blossomed into an All-Star PG.

- The Suns probably faired a bit better in the trade than Dallas. Forget that Garrity, Wells and Muursepp washed out in Phoenix. That pick, the No. 9 pick in 1999, turned out to be Shawn Marion, who is pound-for-pound the best all-around player in the NBA. Nobody does more with less attention.

- The Grizz eventually got hoodwinked by Sacramento in a PG swap of the efficient Bibby for the Globetrotter wannabe Jason Williams. The Kings got a good team basketball player. The Grizz got a showoff with a bad attitude.

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