Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hip Hoop Junkies talks Suns basketball with Slam Online writer, Ben York

Steve Nash touched down on his native Canadian soil on Sunday afternoon when his Phoenix Suns downed the Toronto Raptors 113-94.  Nash's Suns are currently the top team in the NBA with their 14-3 record and are one of the early surprise teams in the league.  I got the chance to talk to Phoenix Suns' fan and writer, Ben York about our Canadian product, Steve Nash, and this year's Phoenix Suns.  Ben is a national writer for Slam Online and also a writer for Fanster.com (covering the Phoenix Suns)  We talk about Steve Nash, how the Raptors can be more like the Suns and what Ben knows about Canadian culture.  

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Hip Hoop Junkies: Our Canadian homie, Steve Nash, is having another phenomenal season with the Suns, leading the league in assists per game. At the ripe old age of 35, how does maintain this year over year?

Ben York: It’s really his inhuman work ethic and a commitment to the betterment of the team. The newest craze is the “Steve Nash Diet” and his commitment to keeping his body in impeccable shape – something that I admire but undoubtedly would never be able to follow. It also helps that the Suns continually surround him with players that are both intelligent and able to score the ball from all areas of the floor. Channing Frye has really helped the Suns offense this year not just from his phenomenal shooting, but that opposing teams are forced to guard him outside. This leaves an opening in the lane for a Nash/Stoudemire pick & roll and more room for Nash to create. So far, it’s working.

HHJ: Nash is doing his thing for the Suns on the court, but off the court, what has Steve Nash been up to? Any more commercials or movies set to release?

BY: The most recent viral video was a spoof infomercial for Vitamin Water which featured 50 Cent. Hilarious. He also directed a movie called “Into the Wind” about Canadian Terry Fox that will debut on ESPN (as part of their 30 For 30 campaign) in 2010.

HHJ:  The Phoenix Suns sit at the top of the Western Conference with a record of 14-3. What has been the key to their success so far?

BY: Playing hard. That’s really it. Gentry has instilled a discipline to this team on both ends of the floor that has done wonders thus far. More importantly, the entire team has bought into his philosophy and realized that this team will go as far as Nash will take them. Nash has noticeably improved on the defensive end of the floor, along with the entire squad, which has translated into a renewed sense of confidence. I’m as surprised as anyone that they are 14-3 and playing as well as they are, especially after last season. The team’s camaraderie has been fantastic and each player has accepted his role in the team’s success – something that is almost unheard of in the NBA nowadays.

HHJ: Are the Phoenix Suns a better team without Shaq? And in your opinion, is Shaq going to hurt or help the Cavs this season?

BY: Yes, but it’s unfair to blame him for the things that went wrong in Phoenix. More than anything, Shaq being gone has given the Suns a boost as a team because there isn’t a single player in that locker room who demands touches now. Shaq needed the ball to be effective which took it out of Nash’s hands; thus, leading to a decrease in scoring for the Suns as a collective team. It also inhibited the Suns best offensive weapon – Steve Nash. The Suns leading scorer this season (Amare) averages fewer than 20 a night. What does mean? Simply that the Suns are a more balanced team and players have not only accepted their roles, they’ve bought into Alvin Gentry’s team-first philosophy. With the ball now in Nash’s hands more, players still get an ample amount of shots and he keeps everyone happy.

As far as Shaq in Cleveland, I think he’ll help them by default since Zydrunas Ilgauskas is showing signs of his age. The Cavs will need an inside presence and toughness and Shaq will give that to them.

HHJ: The Toronto Raptors are similar to the Phoenix Suns in the fact they are both fast-paced, high-scoring, offensive teams. As an outsider looking in, what are the Raptors missing that the Phoenix Suns possess?

BY: Depth. The Suns have one of the deepest teams in the league, but you’d never know it. The Suns also have a team-first attitude and a belief in themselves that as long as each person goes out and gives it their all, they’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter who scores or who gets the credit as long as they keep winning; an attitude that has been missing the past few years. Personally, I’ve never seen a team in the NBA enjoy playing together as much as the Suns are this year. They go out every single night, play their butts off, and live with the outcome. So far, the outcome has been fantastic and has Suns fans excited and optimistic again. I think the Raptors are on the cusp of taking off, but Bosh will need some more help.

HHJ: As a Suns fan, what has Steve Nash taught you about Canadian culture? Can you sing the national anthem, do you know who the prime minister is? How much of Nash's Canadian culture has rubbed off on fans?

BY: Honestly, the only thing Nash has taught me about Canadian culture is that you Canadians are some nice, humble people. I knew a good majority of the anthem from my days in Colorado as an Avalanche fan and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a humanitarian. That’s about it. : )

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A big thanks goes out to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions, check him out at Slam Online (covering the WNBA) and at Fanster.com (covering the Phoenix Suns)

Photo credit: (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Hip Hoop Junkies, a Toronto Raptors / NBA / Canada Basketball blog based out of Halifax. Home of the #RAPSTALK Podcast - "Hoops Talk out of Halifax"

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