1. Nate Robinson. The game was supposed to be about Coach D'Antoni returning to Phoenix for the first time since his messy departure (to his slight surprise, they cheered him while standing) and his visitation with the point guard of his dreams, Steve Nash (see below), who seems to dream of being reunited, but the man who may have generated the most excitement last night in the valley of the sun was the Knicks' diminutive ball handler/scorer. In his second game back from a lingering groin injury, Nate filled the score sheet. He played 36 minutes, scored 27 points, grabbed 9 rebounds (and remember, he's shorter than you are), nicked 3 steals, logged five assists and turned the ball over zero times. He scored 9 points over a three minute stretch in the fourth to pull the Knicks within three. Of course, that's when Nash took over and won the game for the Suns. But, pay no attention to that. Outside of the upper-echelon scorers (Wade, Carmelo, Dirk, Lebron, Kobe and Pierce) I can't think of a player who is more explosive and capable of such stretches as Robinson. I mean that. His quickness is like alien life. Once you've seen you believe forever. I watched while he scored 19 second quarter points at the Garden a few weeks ago. And, he seems capable of doing something of that magnitude every night that he is healthy and gets minutes.
2. Steve Nash. Provided the urbane Canadian stays healthy and interested, he will play for the Knicks. It's science. He pines for D'Antoni like I pine for paid vacation days and health insurance. In the Kerr-Porter-Shaq Regime he is a stranger in a strange land and has a contract that expires, conveniently enough, after next season. He'll have worn down the tread on his garbage-fashioned hightops by then but he'll still be a great vet add-on for a franchise looking to build a championship team. In theory, the New York Knickerbockers will be such a franchise after adding one (or two or three) of the A-list free agents also coming out that summer. Perhaps auditioning (like the two-time MVP would need to), Nash took over the game down the stretch, scoring 9 points in the last 2:35 of the game, including the three-point dagger that pierced the Knicks hopes with 28 ticks remaining. Steve Nash will be mine. Oh, yes. He will be mine.
3. The Denver Nuggets. It was thought that theirs was the white flag. And, maybe it was. But when this team traded away Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson they were not signaling their plans to surrender the 2008-2009 season and one more year of Carmelo Anthony's prime. Nope. When Denver GM Mark Warkentien waved a white flag it was because he intended to negotiate a better deal for his soldiers. We often forget that the white flag of surrender is also the flag of the ceasefire and the flag of negotiation. And, negotiating is exactly what they Nuggets did. They negotiated a few personnel moves and brought in the steady hand of Chauncey Billups to helm Carmelo's squad. With Billups they returned to the NBA battlefield with a vigor and precision unexpected. After defeating a resurgent Mavericks squad last night in the land of Ed Werder, the Nuggets have won 16 out of 20 since acquiring Billups from Detroit (in exchange for Iverson), are leading the the Northwest Division and would the No. 2 seed in the West if the playoffs began today. Things are going less well in Detroit. On a lot of levels.
4. Donovan McNabb. Just yesterday he was out of town. Off the team. On the bench. And, now he's quarterbacking one of the hottest teams in the NFL to a big win on Monday Night. Jeez. With an implosion next week just as likely as continued success, I'm just going to say that las night he looked darn good and was throwing darts to Jason Avant and co.
5. Stylze G. White. Whether you thought that Chad Johnson was an asshat for legally changing his last name to Ocho Cinco or if you felt that the National Football League revealed itself as a cash-swilling destroyer of souls when it stated that Mr. OC could only have his legal name reflected on his jersey until he paid for the remaining stock of unsold JOHNSON jerseys (and, I'd like to see them pull this same tactic with a guy who changes his name for religious reasons), there was no denying the coolness of the move pulled off by the defensive end formerly known as Gregory Alphonso White. The Tampa Bay Bucs D end legally changed his name to Stylez G. White. And, yes, the handle "Stylez" derives from the character named "Stiles" in Teen Wolf, whose signature t-shirt read "what are you looking at dicknose?"