Toronto Raptors sing praises of future Hall of Famer Steve Nash

Two-time NBA most valuable player Steve Nash addresses the media prior to an NBA basketball game between the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers, Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, in Phoenix. Nash will be inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor during the game. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

TORONTO — Steve Nash might not have pioneered the move, but the Canadian point guard certainly made it popular.

Nash was most famous boldly dribbling through the paint along the baseline, gathering opposing defenders before scorching them with his lightning-quick precise passes to open shooters or cutters.

It was both incredibly effective and altered the way basketball is played. And when news broke at Toronto Raptors practice on Thursday that Nash was headed into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, they were singing the praises of the 18-year NBA veteran.

"Bob Cousy started that (offensive tactic), where you called it ‘the midget,"’ Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Now they call it ‘the Steve Nash.’ Steve took it to another level with the lobs to (Amare) Stoudamire or Shawn Marion. I told Shawn all the time he owed Steve a lot of money because Steve made his career, made his job easy by making the passes right on time, on target. He made a lot of guys very good players."

While an official announcement is expected Saturday, reports Thursday have Nash, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill headed in to the Hall as part of the class of 2018.

The 44-year-old from Victoria was the face of Canadian basketball for the better part of two decades, and when he retired in 2015, his 10,335 assists ranked him third all-time behind John Stockton and Kidd. He became the first Canadian to win the NBA’s most valuable player award in 2005 with the Phoenix Suns, and then captured it again in 2006.

Kyle Lowry grew up watching Nash and Kidd, and eventually played against both of them.

"Steve kind of changed the game to what the game is now with the up-tempo…" Lowry said. "(Nash and Kidd) are two of the point guards who kind of changed the game as facilitators and shooters.

"Lot of people call (Nash’s way of freewheeling method of attacking) ‘Nashing it, midgeting it,’ keeping his dribble alive," Lowry added. "That was one of the things where he was not as athletic but he could get around you, and he knew once he got in the paint, he got everyone to collapse and then kicked out. I’m sure all of his teammates loved playing with him when he just started playing basketball, kicking it out. One of the best playmakers there’s ever been."

Nash made the All-NBA first team three times during his career with Phoenix, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Toronto’s backup guard Fred VanVleet said watching point guards was a staple of his television viewing growing up, and he’s tried to take a little bit from everybody to develop his game.

"I like Steve Nash’s under-the-rim ability. That obviously favours me," he said. "I think Nash made it cool. I don’t know if he was the first person to do it, but he’s the first person I remember seeing do it.

"He kind of made it OK to dribble the air out of the ball a little bit, keeping looking, because you knew he wasn’t being selfish about it. He was always looking for the best play and the right play and keeping the defence honest. If you don’t have a high percentage shot to throw it up, you dribble it back out and you’ll get something good.

"I have studied a lot of his film to see where he picked his spots."

The eight-time all-star was trending on Twitter on Thursday, and Magic Johnson was among those who offered their best wishes.

"Congratulations to ↕realgranthill33, ↕RealJasonKidd, and ↕SteveNash on their induction to the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and to the rest of the 2018 nominees! What I love about Grant, Jason, and Steve is they were all about winning and made their teammates better," Johnson wrote.

Nash was hampered by injuries in his last couple of seasons before retiring in March of 2015.

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