05/08/05 — Suns' Nash edges Shaq for MVP nod

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Suns' Nash edges Shaq for MVP nod

By Wire
Published in Sports on May 8, 2005 2:12 AM

Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns has won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, sources told The Associated Press on Friday.

The award will be announced today, and the league office has been silent regarding any details of the announcement. Two sources close to Nash, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had been notified that the Canadian star had won.

Nash becomes the first Canadian MVP and only the sixth guard in league history to win the award, joining Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan. Nash's selection as MVP was first reported Friday by ESPN.com.

The 31-year-old guard, who joined the Suns last summer as a free agent after spending six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, led Phoenix to a league-best 62-20 record while averaging an NBA-high 11.5 assists.

The Suns, who were 29-53 last season, were only the second team in NBA history to win 60 games after losing 50. They swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs and are awaiting the outcome of the Dallas-Houston series to learn their next opponent.

"It's exciting to be mentioned, (but) the game is so important for us on Monday that it's a hard time of year to get excited about MVP," Nash said after practice Friday.

Nash becomes the first player since Dave Cowens of the Boston Celtics in 1972-73 to win the MVP award without leading his team in scoring. The only others to accomplish that feat were Wes Unseld, Bill Russell and Cousy.

According to a poll conducted by The Arizona Republic, Nash and Shaquille O'Neal were locked in a near dead heat. The newspaper surveyed 106 of the 127 writers and broadcasters who voted for the league's 50th MVP award and found that Nash had 53 first-place votes while O'Neal had 51.

O'Neal would not talk to reporters Friday after the Heat's practice in Miami. Teammates suggested his mood may get even worse.

"Oooh, that would be scary. If he doesn't win it, it's going to (make him angry)," said Alonzo Mourning, who finished second in the 1999 MVP voting and third in 2000 when O'Neal was chosen as the top player. "I don't want to play against him if he's (angry). Glad he's on my team."

O'Neal averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds on a league-best 60.1 percent shooting this season.

Nash, averaged 15.5 points and made more than 50 percent of his shots -- a rarity for guards. He also made 94 3-pointers as the high-scoring Suns set an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season with 796.

One factor voters often look at is how an MVP candidate made those around him better.

Nash, with his unique dribbling and passing style, helped vastly improve the statistics of teammates Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. The Suns' season scoring average of 110 points was the NBA's highest in a decade.

"Shaq is more dominant, but I think Steve has had more impact on a basketball team," Johnson said.

Nash and O'Neal both changed teams last summer, and both clearly made their new teams better. With O'Neal, Miami added 17 more wins to its total from 2003-04, plus earned the No. 1 seed for the East playoffs.

One critical difference, Miami coach Stan Van Gundy argued, was seeing how O'Neal's and Nash's former teams fared in their absence.

With O'Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers were Western Conference champions in 2004; they were 34-48 and finished 11 games out of a playoff spot this year. Meanwhile, Nash's former team, Dallas, improved its record without him, going from 52 wins to 58.

"Steve Nash left and Dallas got better. The Lakers did not get better," Van Gundy said. "I think that's the difference between the two of them when you come down to the voting. And I'm certainly a great admirer of Steve Nash."

(AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.)