http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...856EST0399.DTL

Suns' Nash, backup both hurt in freak practice incident; both likely to miss time

BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


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(01-18) 15:56 PST PHOENIX (AP) --

After limping home from an 0-4 road trip, the Phoenix Suns thought they would have Steve Nash back in the lineup Wednesday night against Memphis. Then Nash had his foot stepped on in Tuesday's practice by his backup.

Now, the Suns may have to get along without either one.

The bruised left thigh that sidelined Nash for the last 21/2 games is no longer a problem, but he twisted his back when backup point guard Leandro Barbosa stepped on his foot. Nash was in obvious discomfort after more than an hour of treatment.

"It was painful," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We'll see if he can get the spasms out and he might be fine, or he might have to take a few days off."

Nash is questionable for the Grizzlies game. Barbosa, the starter in Nash's absence, left America West Arena on crutches with a sprained left ankle and won't play on Wednesday.

If Nash and Barbosa both are out, Joe Johnson will move to point guard.

"I don't have any movement right now, but hopeful it will subside and I'll feel better soon," Nash said. "It's very frustrating. I was feeling great and was ready to get it going again."

With Nash -- the runaway NBA leader in assists at 10.9 per game -- at the controls, the Suns bolted to 31-4, one of the best starts in league history. Their style was fast and entertaining, a refreshing change from the plodding half-court game that dominates the NBA. Three-pointers rained from all sides, and lightning-quick Amare Stoudemire created havoc in the middle.

Their 122-107 home victory over Miami a week ago was their seventh win in a row, and 18th in 19 games. But the next night, the cold-shooting Suns lost at Utah 115-108, the first of four road games in six days.

Nash had missed just four games in the previous three seasons with Dallas. But last Friday at Indiana, he went down in the first half with a bruised thigh. He sat out the next two, a 108-103 defeat at Washington and a listless 94-80 pounding at Detroit on Monday. The cohesive, fast-paced play that had made the Suns special disintegrated.

"I think everybody tried to take the burden on their shoulders to a certain extent and do it themselves," said Shawn Marion, who was 3-for-9 shooting against the Pistons. "We can't be that way. We've got to do it collective, do it together."

Without the even distribution that Nash facilitates, the Suns suddenly look a lot like the team that went 29-53 last season.

"We still have the best record in the league and we've got to start acting like it," Johnson said. "With Steve out, we've been a little tense, we've been a little undecided. We've got to get that out of our heads."

From the bench, Nash watched the team concept evaporate.

"I don't think anyone was being selfish," he said. "I just think guys were trying too hard to make things happen. You've got to try to trust each other and allow each other to do it."

D'Antoni, meanwhile, said there is no way the Suns would have gone 0-4 on the trip if Nash had played.

"You can go stretches without Steve in there," he said, "but if you try to do it over a 48-minute game, it just changes the way we play. We've never practiced for that way, or we don't run training camp for that way."

After Memphis, the Suns host the San Antonio Spurs for the first time Friday night. The three-game home stand ends Sunday against New Jersey, then the Suns hit the road for their longest trip of the year -- six games in eight days.

"We know we've got a job ahead of us, and we know that we've got to hunker down a little bit," D'Antoni said. "We've always talked about that there would be some stretches where it won't be fun and it will be tough. This is a tough stretch. It doesn't help when you have injuries, but you deal with it and try to get wins no matter what."