From bad to worse
Nash's back strain adds to woes of 4-game slide
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 19, 2005 12:00 AM
Steve Nash left Suns practice Tuesday morning walking like the Tin Man's great-grandpa. Leandro Barbosa hobbled away on crutches.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni couldn't help but offer a can-you-believe-it laugh and smile.
"It's not a good day," D'Antoni said after the workout at America West Arena, Nash's first action since suffering a deep thigh bruise Friday at Indiana. advertisement
Nash and Barbosa, the starting and backup point guards, respectively, banged into each other near the end of practice and suffered injuries that likely will make Joe Johnson the starting point guard tonight against Memphis.
Nash, who strained his back, is doubtful;
Barbosa sprained his left ankle and is expected to miss seven to 10 days.
"It's very frustrating," Nash said. "I was feeling great and was ready to get going again."
Nash could barely walk immediately after practice because of back spasms, but his condition improved by the end of the day, head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson
Results of a magnetic resonance imaging test were negative, but Phoenix is expected to keep Nash off the floor tonight just to be safe.
Barbosa, who was not available for comment, suffered a Grade 2 sprain. Results of his MRI were not expected until late Tuesday night.
Barbosa stepped on Nash's foot when Nash changed direction on him. The "freak accident," as D'Antoni called it, left the Suns browsing the National Basketball Development League in search of temporary backcourt help.
Six-foot-1 Omar Cook, who played one season at St. John's, was an Orlando second-round pick in 2001, and 6-4 Smush Parker, who played 11 games with Detroit earlier this season, are possible 10-day contract candidates.
The Suns (31-8) have lost four consecutive games since Valley fans saw them notch a resounding victory over Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat on Jan. 11, and the swagger the team had when it left for the four-game trip has seemingly disappeared.
"It's a big deal, but we still have the best record in the league," Johnson said. "We just have to act like it. We've got a lot of work to do."
That job starts tonight when the Grizzlies, winners of nine of their past 10, take the floor at America West Arena. San Antonio, which trails Phoenix by a half-game in the Western Conference, follows Friday.
D'Antoni spoke frankly about Nash's impact on the offense.
"We have to score 110 points (to win), and the only way we can have 110 points is to have Steve motoring up and down," he said. " . . . You ain't going to do that without him."
Amaré Stoudemire agreed.
"It's tough," Stoudemire said. "Once you're playing a certain way with your point guard, it's tough to change your offense within a short period of time."
Nash insisted the Suns could win without him.
"We've got a talented group," he said. "These guys can do it. They don't need me every night to get it done. Maybe that's one of the lessons that will come out of this."
D'Antoni did not speculate about tonight's starting lineup. If Nash doesn't play, look for Johnson to move from No. 2 guard to point and for either Steven Hunter or Jake Voskuhl to start at center.
D'Antoni hinted that he's troubled, but not surprised, his team finally hit a tough time.
"Everybody's talking 70 wins, 65," D'Antoni said. "But it's a tough year. . . . We're not the Chicago Bulls and whatever they did. We're not there yet. We're the youngest team in the league, and we're going to have our ups and downs."
Republic reporter Paul Coro contributed to this article.
A few Suns statistics over the first 36 games vs. the past three make Steve Nash's role obvious. Stats Before After
Points per game 110 88.7
Assists per game 23.4 12.7
Field-goal % .480 .393
Free-throw attempts 25.1 20.7
Fans weigh in
The Suns begin a three-game homestand today at America West Arena, and fans hope they can shake the effects of Steve Nash's injury and four straight road losses.
"I'm concerned. I think they had it too good for too long. You can't just lay back and then kick it on in the fourth quarter. That's not going to work against the good teams." - Charlotte Stoppie, 45, Tempe
"It's too early in the season to panic, but if you look at it, you don't see too many good things happening since Steve Nash got hurt. It's too bad, because it was just starting to get to the point of excitement like it was when Charles Barkley
was here. Now it's starting to seem like they're kind of cursed." - Steve Martin, 49, Phoenix
"I think they can recover. The obviously have it. They can get it back." - Bob McCauley, 51, Tempe