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NBA Sunday: Old guys still rule the NBA

Published: Saturday, March 5 2011 8:02 p.m. MST

Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash, right, scores past Toronto Raptors' Jose Calderon during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

Associated Press

Who says the National Basketball Association has to be a young man's league?

Well, common sense says it is. The Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors is the youngest player in the league at 19 years old, and he has a solid career ahead of him. The leading candidate for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, Derrick Rose, is only 22. LeBron James, who can explode to the basket like no other player in NBA history, is only 26.

But there is still plenty of room for old guys in the league, and this past week was a great example of that. When you get older, the accomplishments and consistency of athletes close to your age just gets more impressive. I recently went through about a six-week stretch of being sick. I'd get over one ailment and another would hit me. I'd get random bloody noses. My workouts were as consistent as Eddy Curry's.

Meanwhile, players 35 or older are still playing in the All-Star Game, contributing on NBA title contenders and making me feel foolish for only making jumpers on my Wii and not in real life. But I admire them and have got mad respect for the following 35-and-older players who still beat the young kids on a consistent basis on NBA courts.

Steve Nash, Suns: Nash has done some incredible things in his career. What he did in the last month ranks up there with being a consistent All-Star, an MVP, and taking his teams to the brink of reaching the NBA Finals.

Nash turned 37 on Feb. 7. He celebrated by dishing at least 10 assists in each of his first 10 games after turning 37. The streak unfortunately ended on Wednesday when he had seven assists against the Celtics.

Nash won back-to-back MVP awards back when he a young buck at ages 31 and 32. He may not run up and down the court like he used to, but he hasn't lost much of a step.

"I think the big thing with him is just consistency," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said in his office prior to his team's game against the Jazz on Feb. 15. "He practices as hard as anyone we've had. He works as hard as anyone we have in the weight room. He takes care of his body, the food that he eats and things like that. It becomes really important to him."

Nash is a great example to young players in the league, weekend warriors and anyone who needs to spend less time on the couch.

"I think he's in great shape and that's why I never talk about his age because it doesn't matter," Gentry said. "He could be 27, he could be 36, it doesn't matter because I think you look at physically where he is from that standpoint. He's in great shape, so that's why he can play at the level he plays."

Nash averages 16.1 points and 11.3 assists per game at age 37. He has the Suns just a game out of the playoff race.

Ray Allen, Celtics: Allen has always been one of my personal favorites. I like shooters, and who has a sweeter shot in the NBA than Allen? I'd say nobody. I also grew up as a Milwaukee Bucks fan, and he nearly got them to the NBA Finals a little more than a decade ago. Not many players can say that.

To see Allen continue to play this well at age 35 has been outstanding. He scored 25 points in the Celtics' 107-102 win over the Jazz on Monday, making five 3-pointers.

Like Nash, Allen's career has been prolonged because of how hard he works and how well he takes care of himself.

"It's just his conditioning," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said prior to Monday's game when asked how Allen has been able to continue to play at the level he currently is. "He's in better shape than all of us. I guess that's how he does it. Every practice we're at, he's there early. He runs, he shoots more than everybody. He has something inside that we don't have."

Allen is the league's all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He averages 17.6 points per game, and is making 46.5 percent of his 3-point shots this season.

Jason Kidd, Mavericks:He is a little more than two weeks away from turning 38, and his numbers are slightly down across the board this season. But he can still make plays, evidenced by how he messed around and got a triple-double on Tuesday. He had 13 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and no turnovers in the Mavericks' 101-93 win over Philadelphia. It was the 107th triple-double of Kidd's career, which is good for third-best in league history.

Grant Hill, Suns: The 38-year-old still plays about 30 minutes a game, and can still score in bunches on occasion. He had 34 points in Phoenix's 110-108 overtime win over Indiana on Sunday. After all that Hill went through early in his career with injuries, it's good to see him contributing at this point in his career.

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

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