It's minutes before the Suns' tip-off against the Washington Wizards at the MCI Center, and talk in the Phoenix locker room has turned to the purported 40-yard-dash times of NFL linemen. (You might think it would be about the Wizards, but once team meetings have ended players rarely talk about the opponent at hand.) House is claiming he can run a 4.4. "You watch me tonight getting to the corner on a break," says House. "It'll be a low four-damn-something." Others, such as Stoudemire, agree that they, too, could run in the low 4s.
Suddenly, Nash pipes up. "How about nobody in the room could run even a 4.5," he says with conviction.
This appears to be the last word. Nash doesn't usually make such public pronouncements and, being somewhat the exercise scientist, his opinion is certainly valued. Even House is silent. For a moment.
"Are you telling me I can't run faster than a damn defensive tackle?" he says.
"You know a defensive tackle who can do a 4.4?" says Nash.
"A couple of them," says House.
"They're freaks then," says Nash. "And if they can run that fast, they're faster than anybody in here."
Within his team, Nash has become the elder spokesman without seeming particularly elderly or particularly spokesmanlike. There is something like an air of serenity that attaches to the man, even when he's running around like a squirrel on speed. "We all just feel, I don't know, safer when Steve's out there," Mike D'Antoni says. And Nash knows that the responsibility to keep things safe stops with him. He's an MVP, so that's where it should stop. He can handle it. The pieces have fallen into place better than he could have imagined when he hatched his NBA dream back in Canada. He is the elite leader of an elite team that could challenge for the championship if, as expected, Stoudemire comes back after the All-Star break.
Off the court, the pieces of his life have similarly come together. Steve and Alejandra, who is from Paraguay, are the parents of one-year-old twin daughters, Lola and Bella. Alejandra and the girls frequently accompany Steve on road trips, and you can tell they're there by the number of hotel guests who jam the lobby to kitchy-kitchy-koo the impossibly darling twins. The girls are, like Nash, eternally on the move, hard to pick up in the open floor. Though a perennial all-interview candidate, Nash guards his domestic privacy and will not allow his daughters to be photographed. Were the paparazzi ever to catch up with him, this would be their shot: Nash, dressed in Suns gear and ski cap, pushing a double stroller out the door of a hotel for a walk, as he did, for example, on the afternoon of the Dec. 28 game in Washington. "It beats taking a nap," he says.
Michael Bay, who has directed Hollywood blockbusters such as Pearl Harbor, directed Nash's how-to basketball video, which includes a clip of Steve dribbling a soccer ball and kicking it into the basket. (It took only four takes.) Then there was Nash in December's GQ, modeling leather jackets. But his appearances in pickup soccer games around New York City last summer (he and Alejandra have an apartment in the Tribeca section of Manhattan) were under-the-radar outings, talked about on the Internet and in pubs where Nash and his unknown teammates would repair after games. He also played pickup hoops from time to time at city playgrounds. And Nash made a flawlessly straight-faced appearance as the foil to spoof-meister Ali G on a preseason TNT commercial. ("We couldn't use the best stuff," says Nash. "At one point he said to me, 'Did you ever, like, let one of your plums fall outta your shorts to distract the opposition?'")