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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Too Much Nash

In one of my columns on this week, I wrote about the reasons for fantasy owners to be wary of players on very good teams. A squad like the Spurs, for example, is going to outclass a lot of opponents and generate big leads... and championship contenders are likely to pull their stars in blowouts and save their legs for the long haul.

I'm disappointed to report that Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is apparently not one of my readers.

D'Antoni's Suns absolutely fit the profile of a team that might be inspired to rest key guys with a big lead. They have championship aspirations. They have a number of key players who are older, have extensive injury histories, or both. And yet, in last night's game against an outclassed Knick team that was flying in missing-man formation from the opening tip and then lost Mardy Collins and Renaldo Balkman to in-game injuries, D'Antoni never really emptied the bench.

With six minutes left in the fourth quarter and a 19-point lead, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill and Boris Diaw were all on the floor. Hill -- he of the long and dramatic injury history -- played 37 minutes. Barbosa -- still recovering from a rib injury -- played 43.

Does D'Antoni have so little faith in his bench that he couldn't trust Marcus Banks or D.J. Strawberry or Alando Tucker with a 19-point lead and six minutes remaining?

I won't suggest that D'Antoni was running up the score... there may be a perfectly logical reason why he chose to let Nash and company log heavy minutes last night. He may have been using the game as a sort of extended training camp -- letting players who have missed time due to injury like Stoudemire, Diaw and Barbosa, build up their wind in game conditions. And as a fantasy owner, I can't say I'm disappointed when guys like Marion -- on my roster in a few leagues -- keep racking up points in garbage time.

But as someone who would really like to see the Suns challenge for a title this season -- as a victory for basketball that's really fun to watch -- I can't help but be concerned. Steve Nash is too valuable a commodity to risk in a blowout.


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