July 5, 2012
The truth was, they had three really good players in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and a bunch of young guys trying to formulate into a championship contender on the fly. And two of those three veterans (Gasol and Bynum) were the subject of trade rumors mid-way through the season.
Add in a new coach in Mike Brown, the departure of Phil Jackson and a lockout-shortened NBA season, and the Lakers had all they could do just to muster up a fight in the NBA playoffs.
Losing another veteran presence in Derek Fisher via a trade for Ramon Sessions that (in my opinion) back fired certainly didn’t help team continuity, either.
However, with one more deal, the Lakers may have made up for that gaffe, and solved a lingering problem in the process. The trade for a 38-year old Steve Nash could, believe it or not, go down as the move of the year.
We still don’t know what will happen with Dwight Howard. Heck, there’s a chance Gasol and/or Bynum’s name gets tossed into the NBA trade rumor ring one more time, and Howard comes to Hollywood. Yes, it’s possible.
But until something that crazy does go down, Nash to L.A. is a big deal, and for several reasons. Let’s break it down:
Nash is a savvy veteran. He knows how to fit snugly into a role, when to shoot, when to not, and how to control a team without being “controlling”. He leads by example, is a quality person on and off the court in most respects, and doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body when it comes to the game of basketball.
Needless to say, it’s not all that surprising that he still pushed out over 10 assists per game while playing less minutes on a losing Phoenix Suns squad.
But even though his Suns missed out on the playoff show last year, Nash still had their high-scoring ways keeping the fans busy on a nightly basis, and had the young Suns in the playoff race until the final week of the lockout season.
Nash is an offensive machine. His mere 12 points per game in 2011 may tell you otherwise, but a quick look to his decrease in minutes per game and desire to get teammates involved tells the true story. The truth is, Nash can get his shot off whenever he wants, and hits it at an exceptional clip – from everywhere. Whether it’s getting to the paint, pulling up at mid or long range, or knocking down freebies at the charity stripe, Nash is among the league’s best at converting and helping his team acquire points.
But we all know Nash, even as good as he is as a shooter/scorer, isn’t all about himself or trying to put on an offensive display. Really, the guy only shoots when he has to – when his teammates have hit a dry spell, when his team is down, or if the game is on the line. His biggest asset has always been and continues to be his ability to control and change a game with the ball in his hands. He excels in the pick and roll, has uncanny vision, and can put a ball anywhere you need it to be, and on a dime.
Working with Kobe Bryant and two beasts (if one/both don’t get traded), Nash could easily have a field day, running around the court and tiring out younger defenders while he picks his poison during each trip down the court. He did it for years in Phoenix, and it worked on a nightly basis. For the first time in his career, he’ll have three elite options to work with, which should make for a very interesting and exciting story-line.
Nash has the goods. But the biggest part of this deal is that the Lakers were somehow getting by for years without a legit point guard. Derek Fisher was seriously their main guy for forever, and I don’t ever remember him even averaging over five assists per game.
Then last year the major “upgrade” was Sessions, and of course the pedestrian Steve Blake was in the mix. In comparison to what Nash has to offer, even at 38, all three of those guys are an embarrassment, and it’s almost a joke to think the Lakers went this long without an elite distributor.
Nash may not be the final piece of the puzzle. The Lakers still need to round out a sub-par bench. They could still stand to get another athlete or two that can run the floor and help defend.
There is also the argument that, while Nash will help raise L.A.’s offense, he could be just as much of a liability as he is a help on the defensive end. Maybe, but it’s not like Fisher, Sessions or Blake have been defensive studs, either.
Nash will probably have his struggles there, but the Lakers will probably use zone or help defense to alleviate the negative impact. That, or their two massive 7-footers will step up and shutdown any point guards that get past Nash and enter the paint.
It’s still a guessing game. The Miami Heat are still the champs, and it’s hard to say if making a trade for Nash makes the Lakers good enough to beat the Heat, much less get to the Finals this coming season. But without a doubt, this was a necessary move, and one that’s been a long time coming. And while only time will tell if it makes the Lakers title favorites, there’s no doubt it’s a move that will make them a whole lot better.