The Genuine Point Guard
By Charles P. Pierce
Published by Sports Illustrated in 2010

A cold spring rain passes through the broken mountains. The morning is gray and laced with it, and it lashes the cactus plants and the arid brush and the birds that call with voices as rough and jagged as the topography. The rain changes the aspect of the desert, softens it into something unlike itself, something liquid and less implacable, something habitable and conventional and less wild, a place where things have to work less hard to grow.

El Chorro Lodge is opening in late morning. Silent men in coveralls sponge the water off the tables on the patio. It is a place like so many that have been carved out of the desert and the hillsides outside Phoenix. People come here to do business over lunch, or to celebrate bibulous anniversaries and promotions and the other minor benchmarks by which success has been measured in the centuries since the desert became another place for the commerce of cliché that is modern American life. The morning comes alive. The chatter at the bar gets louder, almost drowning out the music on the sound system. A Canadian named Neil Young is singing about burning out and fading away. A busboy sings along. Nobody at the bar knows the words. There's no golf course in sight, but everybody there looks as though they've just birdied 18. Outside, a guy on a silver mountain bike glides up to the valet parking stand.

There's a long-sleeved T-shirt under the short-sleeved T, and a pair of gray shorts, and the hair is in some place halfway between the pillow and the morning breeze. The face seems to spread itself open at the bones, the blue eyes wide and the cheeks broad and chiseled. The whole aspect is something both controlled and askew, off-plumb but on-balance. Steve Nash hands his bike to the valets. They park his bike in the lot between a couple of Cadillacs, which look no more like Cadillacs used to look than this place looks like the primordial desert. On a chilly rain-washed morning in a place that's supposed to be neither chilly nor rain-washed, amid the banalities and air-kisses and petty contrivances of a dozen business lunches all around him, Nash seems to be the only soul in the place who's real.

"I've always had a feeling in my life that great things are to come," he says. "My life, it's definitely a bubble, but it's all about how freely and easily you depart from it. And I love my departures from the bubble. I love thinking, What else am I going to do?"

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