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Suns Hope Top Draft Pick Is Another Michael Finley

July 25, 1996 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) _ If Steve Nash turns out to be another Michael Finley, that will be just fine with the Phoenix Suns.

Finley, the club’s top draft choice last year, blossomed into one of the NBA’s best rookies, averaging 15 points and 3.5 assists and making the all-rookie team.

Nash, Phoenix’s first selection in last month’s draft and potential successor to Kevin Johnson at point guard, signed a three-year contract Wednesday worth about $3.1 million.

Few rookies have an immediate impact on their teams as did Finley, but the Suns have high hopes for Nash, general manager Bryan Colangelo said.


``Time will tell if Steve is one of those people. But we feel that his drive and work ethic and his mental preparation have put him in a great position to be one of those people,″ he said.

Asked at a news conference what type of player he would be for the Suns, the 6-foot-3 Nash replied: ``Probably a little bit like Michael Jordan at first.″

Team president Jerry Colangelo, seated behind Nash, nearly fell out of his chair.

``It could take him a little while to do what Jordan does,″ Colangelo said with a grin.

For now, Phoenix will be satisfied if Nash can learn the NBA ropes in his rookie season and then step into the shoes of Johnson, the veteran point guard who plans to retire after next season.

``I’m confident that I can come in and play right away. The reason I’m confident is that I know I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m always willing to learn and improve,″ Nash said.

``If I’m going to score in this league, then that’s what I’m going to do. (But) I have visions of being an assist guy and setting my teammates up because I get a lot of excitement out of making easy baskets for my teammates.″

Nash, the 15th selection in last month’s draft, is a two-time West Coast Conference player of the year who averaged 17 points and six assists per game for Santa Clara last season. He is the school’s all-time leader in assists and free throw percentage and ranks third in career scoring.

``The jury is always out on any young player until they get out there and actually get the opportunity, and then get the job done,″ Jerry Colangelo said. ``Something tells me instinctively he’s going to be up to that task.″

Nash says he plans to return home to Vancouver, British Columbia, to run a basketball camp and nurse a pulled hamstring that forced him to sit out the summer rookie league.

He’s also preparing for the heat _ the Phoenix variety, not the Miami team coached by Pat Riley.

``It’s all right when you’re looking outside at it, but when you’re out there, it’s overwhelming at times,″ Nash said. ``I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a lot more in the winter.″