Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.
By Mark Schanowski
When the Bulls host Phoenix Tuesday night, the game will mean more than just a chance to move closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The sellout crowd at the United Center will get a chance to watch two-time league MVP Steve Nash pass the point guard torch to Derrick Rose, who looks like a lock to win his first Most Valuable Player award this season.
Where does Nash rank on your list of all-time point guards? And, how long will it take for Rose to join the ranks of Nash, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Oscar Robertson on the list of all-time greats at the position? Please post your comments in the section below.
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Nash has been an amazing story, arriving in Phoenix as an undersized, virtually unknown 1st round draft pick out of Santa Clara. Nash played behind Kevin Johnson when he came into the league, and the Suns eventually traded him to Dallas, where he teamed with Dirk Nowitzki to turn the Mavericks into a Western Conference contender. Then, Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to offer Nash a long-term contract when he hit free agency, figuring his skills would start to decline in his 30s. Instead, Nash returned to Phoenix, and won back-to-back MVP awards, directing the leagues most prolific offense.
Now at age 37, Nash is close to the end of the line, and Rose has replaced him as the leagues best point guard. Sure, there were other presumed successors to Nashs crown like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but Paul broke down physically and Williams star lost a lot of its luster from his involvement with Jerry Sloans departure in Utah and subsequent trade to New Jersey. Now, its Rose, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo rising to the top of the point guard class, and plenty of talented young guys right behind them like John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.
Back to Nash, its amazing how big a role he played in the Suns success. Nash has missed 32 games since he rejoined Phoenix in 2004-05. The Suns are 10-22 (.313) over that span in games without Nash, compared to 359-177 (.670) in games Nash has played. Thats what being an MVP is all about.
Rose is clearly irreplaceable with the Bulls. Despite the fact either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer has been out with injuries for most of the season, Rose has carried the Bulls to the best record in the East and 2nd best record overall in the league. Hes the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, something Nash never did during his MVP seasons in Phoenix. And, Derricks work ethic and desire to win have rubbed off on his teammates, taking them to new heights.
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Nash missed the Suns game against San Antonio Sunday because of the flu, but head coach Alvin Gentry says Nash should be able to go against the Bulls. And, lets hope thats the case, because its only fitting that Rose would wrap up his first MVP season with another vintage performance against Nash. During Derricks brief three-year career, hes led the Bulls to four wins over Phoenix in five tries, averaging 26.8 points and 6.4 assists, compared to Nashs 13 points and 9.6 assists. Who knows, maybe Nash will decide he cant play against the Bulls Tuesday, not because of the flu, but because of a severe case of Rose-itis.
So, when youre enjoying the Bulls-Suns game Tuesday night, think about the amazing rise of Derrick Rose. Hes gone from Rookie of the Year to All-Star reserve to the presumed league MVP in the span of three years, and remember the best is still to come. Derrick is only 22!
So, where do Nash and Rose rank among the list of best point guards of all-time? Please post your comments in the section below.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.