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NBA Suspends Steve Nash for Season

 


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/ Apr. 1, 2005

MVP candidate admits to doctoring ball to increase shooting percentage. Recently resigned Mavs coach Don Nelson implicated in probe.

Steve NashSteve Nash, all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns and a candidate for NBA MVP, has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season and all of the playoffs for cheating. Commissioner David Stern will make the formal announcement Friday afternoon at NBA headquarters in New York.

Nash confessed to NBA investigators that he violated league rules by applying a foreign substance to the game ball before each free throw attempt and, when possible, before field goal attempts. He told his inquisitors that, compared to a shot with a "clean" ball, a shot with a "dabbed" ball has a steeper downward trajectory as it approaches the hoop and thus is more likely to go through it.

Nash said that prior to every game he would comb into his hair a clear, odorless substance that he bought in bulk from a Dallas-based hair stylist. So far, he has refused to identify his supplier and claims not to know the precise chemical composition of the substance, which comes in plain brown tubes devoid of a list of ingredients or any other writing. Nash did admit that the substance has a similar feel to K-Y Jelly, the doctoring agent favored by baseball pitchers who cheat.

The NBA's Technical Services Division (TSD) has just begun their tests on the substance. Results are expected next week.

A consultant to the TSD, Dr. Reed Johnson of Harvard's Center for the Study of Physics and Sports, explained how a jelly-like substance affects the flight of pitches and shots:

"When Gaylord Perry threw his greaseball, it would resemble a fastball for 58 feet, then descend sharply as it reached the hitting zone, making it nearly unhittable. That's because the added dab of K-Y Jelly accelerated the natural gravitational pull on the hurled object. As for Steve Nash, his shot looks like that of any other good shooter with a moderate-to-high arc for the first 90 percent of the ball's flight. But slow-motion replays demonstrate that, in the last 10 percent of flight, Nash's shot has an unnaturally steep descent. This gives him a greater margin for error, which is why his shooting percentages from the line and from within and beyond the arc dwarf those of other point guards. In fact, they are historically unprecedented."

Johnson said it only takes a small amount of the substance, when transferred by moistened fingers from one's hair to the basketball, to achieve the desired effect.

Don NelsonA source close to NBA VP Stu Jackson confirms that Nash's suspension is directly related to the abrupt retirement of Nash's former coach in Dallas, Don Nelson. By agreeing to step down from coaching and tell investigators everything he knows, Nelson received a promise from the commissioner that the current Mavs squad, which has not been implicated in the scandal, would escape censure.

League sources say Nelson has admitted he taught Nash how to shoot the grease ball long ago, when the Canadian playmaker was at a low point in his career. "People forget how badly Steve struggled when he first came to Dallas," Nelson told his interrogators. "He needed a confidence booster. I just wish I could have weened him off the stuff."

Nelson confessed that he himself used the substance throughout his playing career, but only in the playoffs - an admission that solves a mystery that has baffled hoop historians for decades. Because of the pressure and defensive intensity of playoff basketball, it is common for players to shoot much lower percentages in the playoffs than the regular season, as the careers of Karl Malone and quite a few others demonstrate. Yet Nelson is the only player with more than 100 playoff appearances to shoot substantially better in the postseason. For his regular-season career, Nelson shot .480 from the floor and .765 from the line. In the playoffs, those percentages skyrocketed to .498 and .817. Now we know why.

As for what led the NBA to suspect Nash, at least one investigator says he's had suspicions for years. "Why would anyone wear his hair like that?" he asks. "That long, greasy look simply doesn't fit with Steve Nash the person - the idealistic, pro-peace, pro-environment activist. Plenty of those cats wear their hair long, but none load it down with grease. They prefer a natural look, and if they play a sport that requires clear vision they go with a ponytail, a headband or both, like a young Bill Walton. Peaceniks are not remotely interested in looking like John Travolta's greasy hit-man character in Pulp Fiction."

The investigator noticed that Nash often brushed his hair with his fingers before beginning his free-throw routine - whether his hair was anywhere near his eyes or not. "It called to mind Gaylord Perry's pre-pitch routine, when he'd touch a variety of places on his uniform and around the bill of his cap where a dab of the invisible substance might be located."

The objective of the shady Perry was to put in the batter's head the thought that the greaseball might be coming, which would make Perry's legal pitches more effective. "Nash, on the other hand, with his innocent reputation, worked a different con," said the investigator. "He wants to make his pre-shot routine look like he's leveling the playing field. Black guys don't have to worry about hair in their eyes, so Nash gains sympathy from the fans and the refs by taking a second to neutralize the brothers' advantage by finger-combing his long hair out of the way. What the refs and fans don't know is that gallant Sir Nashahad has just picked up a dab of a banned substance that will make it almost impossible for him to miss."

The NBA investigator had it all figured out. The only thing lacking was the probable cause that would justify launching a formal investigation, which would include the authority to search Nash's locker and home.

Then, on February 21, the investigator received a call that he was able to trace to a Dairy Queen near Dallas. The caller refused to identify himself, but he implicated Nash and Nelson and suggested that a search of Nash's Phoenix locker would turn up something Nash should not have.

That's just what happened. The result is that the Suns dream season has turned into a nightmare.

The work of investigative reporter Dennis Hans has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and other media outlets. He can be reached at Hans_D@popmail.firn.edu.

*** Yes, this piece is satire. It's a joke. Happy April Fool's Day ***







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