First there was the youth of Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, then the brilliance of Utah's Deron Williams, the reigning "Best Point Guard in the NBA," at least until an injured Chris Paul gets the chance to fight for the right.
None other than a two-time most valuable player, Steve Nash of Phoenix, happens to be looming on the horizon for the Lakers' Derek Fisher. Little 'ol one-eyed Steve, who didn't let six stitches and a swollen and shut right eye stop him from guiding the Suns to the Western Conference finals.
Talk about the trilogy of point-guard terrors.
"He loves it," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Fisher. "He loves the opportunity to do this."
Fisher, speaking after practice Wednesday, sounded ready to continue running the gantlet. Westbrook, Williams and now Nash … the point-guard version of running with the bulls. Or in this case, against them.
"Steve's been around long enough not to be surprised by anything," Fisher said. "He's a two-time MVP, accomplished everything you can accomplish as a player individually. So the only thing that separates him from other greats is championships."
Jackson was asked about Nash's gutty performance in Game 4 against the Spurs. Two of Nash's teammates wore eye patches after the Suns' practice Tuesday, taking shots and trying to Be Like Steve.
"That's just kind of the personification of who he is — a competitor who just likes to compete and wouldn't give up that opportunity," Jackson said.
With all the talk about Fisher's advancing age, Nash is a year older than the 35-year-old Fisher.
"In pro sports, age just tends to be the one thing that everybody can jump to and say that's why the performance is this or that," Fisher said. "Steve, as well as Grant Hill and other guys around the league, are changing that perception.
"Steve can be at the top of the list of guys blowing those myths right out the window."
Consider the window shattered.
Still, Nash vs. Fisher is hardly the lone intriguing matchup of the Lakers-Suns series. In looking at Pau Gasol vs. the Suns' Amare Stoudemire, Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw broadened the scope a bit.
"The matchup between the bigs" is of interest, Shaw said, "and I'm grouping them together because if Andrew [Bynum] is able to play a lot in the series, it forces Stoudemire to have to be accountable on defense every possession, probably guarding Pau.
"I think there's been time in different series where the guy who Stoudemire is guarding hasn't really been a post threat and so [Stoudemire] can kind of rest on the defensive end. But if he's having to guard Pau, then the pressure is on him to defend and use energy doing that as well.… So that's going to be critical."
The 6-8½ Stoudemire averaged 27 points and 9.6 rebounds after the Feb. 18 trade deadline came and went with the Suns hanging on to him. Bynum has been dealing with an injured right knee and Gasol had his own issue, albeit minor, when he was excused because of sinus trouble Wednesday.
High-octane, most certainly, will be the overriding theme of Lakers-Suns.
"Obviously they want to make the game as fast-paced as possible," Shaw said. "That's the one way they probably feel like they can combat our size is with their speed. They like to front the post and make us work to get it inside to our guys.
"This year, there's a noticeable difference in their defense.… When a guy comes off a screen, they show a certain way. The help side comes over and then they rotate.
"Whereas before, it was like they may try the first option to stop you. And if you got beyond that first option, they'd concede the basket and just try to beat you down court and get a three to the two that you made."
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