Q-Rich, Stoudemire talk Steve Nash’s giving, blowing up 2004-05 Suns
It’s been awhile since the Phoenix Suns had the good times rolling.
But for most of the last decade, that was the case. The 2004-05 Suns were the revolutionary bunch that ran their way into fans’ hearts and to the Western Conference Finals, and though Phoenix would continue to chase titles through 2010, the first iteration of the Seven Seconds or Less squad holds a special place in hoops lore.
On the Knuckleheads podcast, former Suns forward Quentin Richardson invited guest Amare Stoudemire to talk about all those great memories — good and bad.
If there’s any common themes that are visited throughout the hour-long podcast, it’s that there couldn’t be much more appreciation for point guard Steve Nash. And that the Suns blew that surprising team up way too fast.
“We were good dudes. We had great relationships,” Richardson said. “That’s what really, the core to what made it work was our relationships, our togetherness. When we came together that month of August and September before (the season) … We hung out, played dominoes, played cards, had barbeques, and Nash was there.
“That’s what I’m telling you. That’s key. That white dude, Canadian … Steve is going out on the road, to the hood clubs with us, doing him.”
Nash was Phoenix’s premier free agent signing that offseason. The Suns inked Richardson and him to group with Shawn Marion, plus rising stars in Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.
Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Suns went small, starting that group after the first game of the year and running teams off the court. But the entire team was close, Richardson said.
He remembers backup guard Casey Jacobsen, center Jake Voskuhl and even guard Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese player to appear in an NBA regular season game, fitting in with the stars.
The camaraderie turned into wins, and Nash won his first of two MVP awards.
“He allowed all of us to be a better version of ourself because we knew he was going to take care of you,” Richardson said. “The best part about Steve Nash is that he had an intuition. ‘Hold on, Amare’s starting to feel kind of like this, I don’t care what the (expletive) the play is, I’ma do this. Oh, Q is starting to get attitude, he hasn’t got a shot in a minute, let me go run in from of him and scoop the ball and screen his man.’ He’s going to cater it to you.”
Maybe the best anecdote of Nash’s leadership came in the middle of the season.
Richardson averaged 14.9 points per game on 13.2 shots, and eight of those came from three-point range. He only hit 36% from deep that year, and as All-Star weekend grew near, it irked the starting forward that he wasn’t going to be invited to the three-point contest.
“At All-Star though, remember they didn’t want to let me in and Steve Nash had to big-boy them?” Richardson asked Stoudemire. “They were saying my percentage didn’t meet the standards, whatever. Steve Nash stepped in like the gangster he is — people don’t know, Steve Nash is the realest ever — ever. That boy used to be with us. You hear me? With us. Doing him but with us, everywhere.
“They wanted Steve Nash being in the skills competition,” Richardson continued. “‘Meh,’ Steve’s like, ‘Alright, Q’s not in that like he’s supposed to be, I’m not going to be in that.’ (Dusts off hands) Q in the three-point contest. Then I go out there and say, you know what, I’m going to win this thing, go ahead and make my boy move look right and make y’all look crazy for trying to play with me anyway. We cleaned house. We repped that weekend.”
Richardson won. Nash competed in the skills competition and won, then helped Stoudemire in the dunk contest.
At the end of the season, the Suns lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals after Johnson suffered an orbital bone fracture during the playoff series.
Despite the success, Phoenix’s front office made the decision that playing a more traditional style was a priority in the offseason. According to Stoudemire and Richardson, the Suns just didn’t tell that to their best players.
During the year, the team failed to extend Johnson despite the starting shooting guard — and backup point guard — wanting a reasonable deal. When the Suns inked defensive ace Raja Bell in the offseason, it signaled to Johnson it was time to move on from Phoenix.
“I was hot, man, I’m not going to lie. I was big hot,” Stoudemire said. “Joe only wanted like a certain amount of money. He was going to settle for less.”
“He wanted six years, $36 million at the beginning of the season,” Richardson added. “(Suns owner Robert) Sarver got skittish because he had just signed me and Steve Nash. Everybody — (former Sun) Rex Chapman, (executive) David Griffin, were like, ‘Bro, we got to do this.'”
Not only did the Suns let Johnson walk, but they traded Richardson to the Knicks after the season in a deal for center Kurt Thomas.
“Steve Nash at (Mavericks guard) Mike Finley’s wedding called me from the bar like at the reception like, ‘What the hell is going on?”” Richardson said. “He trying to call everybody, trying to figure it out. They start pulling triggers, traded me.”
That stung Richardson, especially after being told during exit interviews that the team wanted to run it back with the same core.
Stoudemire’s exit didn’t happen until 2010, when the Suns sat him down and told him they were prepared to move on. Worried about the health of his knees, Phoenix didn’t match an offer given to Stoudemire by the Knicks, and his time with the Suns ended there.
“They ain’t made the playoffs since,” Stoudemire said.