In ’03/’04 NBA season the Phoenix Suns achieved a 29-53 record. During the season they traded point guard Stephon Marbury in a package deal to the New York Knicks and at the end of the season, it was obvious they need a new ball handler. They decided to address the issue by signing a 30-year-old Steve Nash on a six-year, 63 million $ contract. All projections predicted another poor season for the Suns.
In one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history, the Suns finished the following season with a 62-20 record as the no.1 seed. They went all the way to the conference finals where they lost to the eventual NBA champions that season, the San Antonio Spurs.
Speaking on their revolutionary approach to the game labeled ”Seven seconds or less” in a panel at the 2018 Sloan Conference Steve Nash said: ”I think Mike’s brilliance was kind of allowing it to take place. I think a lot of coaches would’ve found a way to stop that and to feel validation in organizing something that didn’t need to be organized.” Nash continued to praise coach D’Antoni for allowing the team to develop the system organically and slowly integrating a few principles to achieve what Nash labeled ”organized mayhem”.
D’Antoni preached pace and space, focusing on details such as making sure that when a player stretches the floor by standing in the corner he truly is standing in the corner of the court. Not a few feet away from the corner, in the corner itself. D’Antoni knew that if they were to use the system properly every inch mattered. The spacing made opponents pick their poison, do they commit to their player or go help on a deadly pick-and-roll by Nash and Stoudemire. Wear your opponent out physically with the high pace of the game and wear them out mentally by constantly making them make decisions.
At the same panel, Shane Battier elaborated on how this was the Duncan and Shaq era, and almost every practice those days involved working on double-teaming the post, prepping for the big men in the league. ”Pick and roll was something we had to go over, but it really wasn’t a big deal. … When these guys (the Suns) came along, THERE WAS NO POST, so it confused you as a defense and you said to yourself ‘What are we trying to stop?’ and the reason why their pick and roll was so devastating is that no one has placed the emphasis on stopping the pick and roll.” Battier later added: ”The Suns made you make decisions. They tested your soul to play defense.”.
An opposing team left one of their scouting reports on the Suns in their arena after a game that season and the report said ”These guys are crazy! They will try anything!”. This shows how the league perceived what the Suns were doing. It was pure madness. Coach D’Antoni loved that, he read it as a compliment.
One of the symptoms of their madness was the fact they took 2097 3 point shots that season. That would put them in the bottom half in today’s NBA. I guess that means the entire league today is bat sh&% crazy.