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Steve Nash, Page 2

Examining the Lakers Back-Up Point Guards: Who Will Be Nash’s Understudy?

(Copped from my Silver Screen & Roll piece yesterday. Dig it!)

Did you know Steve Nash is a Laker?

It’s been five and a half months since he stunned the hoops world and signed with his once-upon-a-time rival Lakers. It’s been almost two months since Portland point guard Damian Lillard assassinated his fibula with a perfectly placed knee. After all the anticipation, Steve Nash will finally return to the court, presumably on Christmas day against the New York Knicks. Though he’s played in eight preseason contests, the point guard has started a scant two games this season, totaling 50 minutes and resulting in zero wins. Steve Nash has been a Laker since July, but he’s appeared so little on the court in a Lakers uniform, it’s still shocking to see him in purple and gold. He’s only missed 24 games, but it feels so much longer than that. Since Nash has been out, the Lakers are on their third coach, have played under-.500 ball and of course, started three different players at point guard.

Nash’s three understudies have been the punctuation mark on the roaring sentiment that a competent starting point guard is needed to run Mike D’Antoni’s system. Lakers fans have gotten far more time than expected to observe and dissect the Lakers back-up point guards, and the grades are in: none of them are particularly gifted. Overall, anyway.

(Peep the rest over at SS&R)

In Defense of Mike Brown: What’s Wrong with the Early-Season Los Angeles Lakers

(MAMBINO piece on the superb Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll. Check it!)

”I don’t know if they will grasp it all,” Jackson said the other day. ”Everything takes time and everything is instinctual. A lot of what you do you can’t emulate or copy. You can’t put it back in the same order you did it before. I may not introduce any of the usual stuff to the team until it’s the right time. And it may not be the right time for four or five months.”–The New York Times, October 31st, 1999

Before the seven more NBA Finals appearances and five more gold trophies adorning Dr. Jerry Buss’ office space, Chicago Bulls maestro Phil Jackson came into Los Angeles charged with the task of making a talented, but underachieving Lakers team into a champion. He would install Tex Winters’ vaunted triangle offense into L.A.’s offensive schemes, a conceptual scoring attack that even now (after 11 titles) some people regard as a form of smoke and mirrors witchcraft (one of Jackson’s assistants on the Lakers, Brian Shaw, recounted last year to’s Ian Thompsen “When I go out on head-coaching interviews and if I mention the word ‘triangle,’ it makes general managers and owners cringe. They don’t want to hear about the triangle offense, they don’t want to hear about Phil Jackson”).

Ever undeterred, Jackson preached patience, and that’s what he got. The 1999-2000 Lakers justified this attitude, and shot out of the gate, going 15-5 in November and along with his extraordinary past success in Chicago, captured the confidence of the city and Lakers Nation.

Mike Brown doesn’t have Phil Jackson’s record of success. The most the two have in common is coaching a 60-win team, appearing in the NBA Finals and their one Coach of the Year trophy apiece. What they do share is the journey of getting a team of underachieving superstars to buy into an intricate new system. For Jackson, it was the aforementioned triangle offense and relying on the team not to adhere to a certain set of plays, but rather to collectively grow within themselves a set of instincts that would get them open shots. For Brown, he’s asking a team of veterans to buy not only into a complex Princeton offense, but also a tough defensive scheme that he only spoke of in theory, not in actual practice last season. Patience, as with Phil Jackson, has been preached by not just the coaching staff, but also by the team. 

Read more over at Silver Screen and Roll

Can They Make it Work? — Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview

That’s some star power.

Starting Five: PG Steve Nash, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Metta World Peace, PF Pau Gasol, C Dwight Howard

Key Bench Players: PG Steve Blakers, PG Chris Duhon, SG Jodie Meeks, F Antawn Jamison, PF/C Jordan Hill
Notable offseason additions: Everyone good in the NBA, PG Steve Nash, PG Chris Duhon, SG Jodie Meeks, F Antawn Jamison, F Earl Clark, C Dwight Howard
Offseason subtractions: C Andrew Bynum, PG Ramon Sessions, G Christian Eyenga,  SF Matt Barnes, PF Josh McRoberts

Just writing the starting lineup gave me chills.

The 2012 season concluded with the following assertions as a near certainty: the re-signing of PG Ramon Sessions, the loss of F/C Jordan Hill to free agency, the amnesty cut of the underperforming Metta World Peace, an inevitable trade of the high-priced Pau Gasol and a high-priced extension of Andrew Bynum. It seemed that this era of Lakers basketball was over, and a new one, whatever trajectory it might take, was ready to begin its course.

None of that happened.

In a flurry of trades and signings over a month-long period, the Los Angeles Lakers went from the Kobe Bryant non-contending sideshow to a favorite for the NBA title. GM Mitch Kupchak and VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss saw every hole the Lakers had, and plugged them seemingly with options out of the fantasy basketball playbook. There’s little more the front office could have done for the team in any sort of pragmatic fashion. The adjective I most associate with LA’s offseason is…silly. All of this is just…silly. 

On paper, the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers are absolutely surreal. The team is carrying four top-20 players in their ranks, including arguably the best shooting guard in the game today, and unquestionably the top center working the hardwood. The bench has gone from one of the league’s worst to one of the league’s most capable. The team that every NBA fan loves to hate just got even better. I can’t imagine the venom coursing through the veins of all those who wish for nothing more than just a five year down period for the most consistently great franchise in American sports history. Sorry to disappoint everyone – this sentiment just makes me smile. Please come to the blog again.

The CDP and I, Co-Presidents of the Arrogants Lakers Fan Association, have obsessed over and examined the new-look Lake Show from every single angle possible. However, as the professionals that we are while representing such a fine blog like MAMBINO, we’ve put aside our blatant, oozing homerism to take a non-partisan look at the squad and determine what we feel are the two most important questions going into the 2012-2013 season. Let’s go!

Who do you thi

Life After Nash – Phoenix Suns Preview

Starting Five: PG Goran Dragic, SG Wesley Johnson, SF Michael Beasley, PF Luis Scola, C Marcin Gortat

Key Bench Players: PG Kendall Marshall, SG Shannon Brown, SF Jared Dudley, F Markieff Morris, F/C Channing Frye, C Jermaine O’Neal

Key Additions: PG Kendall Marshall (13th overall pick), SG Wesley Johnson, SF Michael Beasley, PF Luis Scola, C Jermaine O’Neal

Key Departures: PG Steve Nash, SG Michael Redd, SF Grant Hill, G/F Josh Childress, F Hakim Warrick, C Robin Lopez

On June 26, 1996, an upstart young point guard out of Santa Clara was drafted 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns. Syracuse’s John Wallace had just finished a stellar collegiate career by making a national television appearance in the NCAA title game, and was still on the board. Suns fans largely booed the decision to draft Nash, and Wallace was drafted by YOUR New York Knickerbockers. (And just how everything else turns out for a tortured fan base, Nash, the two-time MVP, is prime to make the most serious championship run of his career, and Wallace averaged less than 6 points a game during his two stints with the Bockers.)

Nash never flourished in his first couple years as professional point guard, playing behind the likes of Kevin Johnson, Sam Cassell, and Jason Kidd. So Phoenix traded him to Dallas in 1998 for this incredible pile of dog crap:

Bubba Wells
Pat Garrity
Martin Muursepp
a first round pick

Good get. Nash blossomed as Dallas’ starting floor general, breaking out in the 2000-01 campaign with 15.6 points and 7.3 assists per game. He was directly responsible for Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley’s maturation, and the Mavericks played postseason basketball for the first time in a decade. But when it came time for Nash to get paid, owner Mark Cuban chose to build around the young Nowitzki, leaving Nash to come back to Phoenix.

The fans would treat him far better the second time around.

Nash’s accolades in Phoenix from 2004 speak for themselves:

  • Two MVP awards (and also becoming just the third point guard to win that trophy)
  • Career high in points (18.8) and rebounds (a whopping 4.2) in 2006
  • Winning the assists title in FIVE different seasons, including a career high (11.6) in 2007, not to be outdone by an absolutely absurd 13.3 assists per game in the ’07 playoffs
  • Recording a field goal percentage above 50% in EVERY season except one, when he slacked off and shot a lackadaisical 49.2%

When the game allowed point guards to flourish by calling fouls on overly aggressive perimeter defenders, Nash was surely the game’s biggest benefactor. In an older game, his less-than-elite lateral quickness might not have allowed him to develop passing lanes for his teammates. But Canada’s best athlete without a hockey stick was responsible for Mike D’Antoni’s huge Knicks contract, Amar’e Stoudemire’s huge Knicks contract, and oh crap I need to stop writing.

When the Suns fell out of the NBA contender pool, Nash never demanded a trade like Carmelo Anthony. He never sulked to the point of stealing his owner’s money like Vince Carter. He continued to play at an extremely high level, showing no mercy for Father Time or for his own ring-less fingers. The fans appreciated this. Nash became the face of Phoenix without getting to the Finals like Charles Barkley did, and without a signature iconic moment that Kevin Johnson had:

Nash made everybody around him better. He made his teammates so good that “making everybody around him better” has become such a cliche when talking aboRead more...

How could the Lakers NOT Win the NBA Title?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been a part of a series of Lakers roundtable posts by the fine folks over at Silver Screen & Roll. In the long, droning pace that’s the NBA offseason, we’ve debated a number of subjects, but lately focusing on what could hinder this glamorous All-Star-laden starting five from doing anything besides parading down Figueroa in June. Here they are, aggregated and expanded upon. Check it out!
Injuries. Plain and simple.

As I ran down a couple weeks ago, you really can’t consider the Lakers the clear favorites for the Western Conference because quite frankly, there’s too many variables before this famed new starting five even hits the hardwood together. This team’s potential is vast; not just as a regular season juggernaut, but as a historically unprecedented vehicle for postseason glory. Thus, my prediction for their current standings had nothing to do with what I think their ceiling is. Far from it, in fact.

Out of everything regarding the Lakers potential deficiencies, team chemistry isn’t a factor I’m worried about. The Lakers are facing a season of massive adjustments just in their starting five alone, from Steve Nash playing with the most talent he’s ever had on a basketball court (all due respect to Marion, Amar’e and Joe Johnson, but we’re talking about Kobe, Gasol and Howard here), to Dwight and Kobe getting less touches than they’ve ever gotten in their careers to Pau’s role as a glorified Brad Miller-esque role as a facilitator and rebounder in the lane (that wasn’t meant to be an insult..for real reals). However, these two biggest mitigating factors makes me think that these changes in on-court philosophy are miniscule compared to the task at hand:
1) Nash’s ability as a floor general: Kobe, Howard and Pau will (theoretically) all be taking less shots, less personal glory and a lighter stat sheet than they’re used to. It’s Steve Nash’s job to make them feel like it’s worth it. My dad always says that the most brilliant part of Phil Jackson’s version of the triangle offense was that because of the intricacies of the scheme, most, if not all five of the players would touch the ball on every single possession. After all, there’s nothing more that a basketball professional loves than feeling the touch of leather on his hands and believing that yes, he is a crucial part of the game. Nash has shown that he’d single-handedly be able to replicate one of the most efficient pieces of the triangle by juggling the egos of his teammates and adjusting his passing ratio accordingly. I have no doubt that he’ll be able to utilize the weapons he has in front of them to their deadliest efficiency, as well as smooth over any on-court frustrations. This is what Steve Nash does. And he does it quite well.

2) The championship hunger of all five starters: Everyone has their reasons, but none should make any individual more motivated than the next. For Steve Nash, he’ll finally hold his first trophy at age 39, and one of the greatest players ever will finally have his ring. Kobe, he’s looking at a historic sixth title, which would tie him with Jordan, Kareem, Robert Horry and a host of Celtics, as well as put him ahead of Magic Johnson and solidify his resume as perhaps one of the top five players ever to grace the NBA. For Pau, this is chance to put more hardware in his prRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Steve Nash to YOUR…Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers get: PG Steve Nash, 3 years, $27 million (absorbed through their $9 million dollar trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal)

Phoenix Suns get: 2013 & 2015 first round draft picks, 2013 & 2014 second round draft picks

In a completely shocking turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Steve Nash from Phoenix tonight for a bevy of draft picks. For months Nash had been saying not only that it would be difficult to play for his playoff rival Lakers, but made serious overtures towards playing for the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets. In fact, I wrote off an acquisition of Nash as a pipe dream in a free agency column for Silver Screen & Roll. However, after a phone call with Kobe Bryant, Phoenix’s ex-point guard changed his tune, coming to LA in search of his first ring in a city where his addition would mean they won a chip. And indeed it would.

As for the trade itself…the Lakers just got Steve F’n Nash. Even at age 38, he’s in peak physical condition, showing zero signs of wear and tear considering the minutes and intense playoff battles he’s waged over the past eight years in the desert. For years, the Lakers have lacked a pass-first point guard who was able to make the other players around him better. The triangle offense was the most efficient distributor for open shots. With Phil Jackson and that system gone, we’ve all seen the results of how the lack of a passer affects the Lakers offense – despite the speedy Ramon Sessions, Kobe Bryant and one of the best passing bigs in the league in Pau Gasol, the Show very rarely was able to get an easy shot and ranked amongst the worst in the league in transition buckets. Mike Brown’s bread and butter was throwing the ball to Kobe, Pau or Bynum in the post, and hoping that their immense skills could simply overwhelm an opposing defense, rather than use ball movement to get open looks.

With Nash in the fold, this all changes. The Lakers get arguably their second-best point guard ever, next to the irrespressible Magic Johnson. Fast-break baskets, once at a premium, will now be available in gobs. LA will finally be able to run the floor with a team general whose execution is one of the greatest ever. Players like Josh McRoberts, Matt Barnes (Nash’s teammate in 2008), Steve Blake and Andrew Bynum should see their statistic spike up like Kobe rising to the rack in 2004, while Pau Gasol could average a nightly triple-double with a passing savant like Nash on his side.

Perhaps more importantly, the team will be completely reinvigorated with this movement. Along with Kobe, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett, there are only a few players in the league that when the game is on the line in the fourth, an intensity washes over their faces; one that screams “we are NOT losing this effing game”. Steve Nash is one of them. The Lakers have looked lazy and listless after their liberating win over the Celtics in 2010, and needed a severe jolt of energy. This might just be it. I’ve said time and time again that LA certainly has the pieces for another title, but needed someone – a coaching staff, a player, something – to bring it out of them. Nash is more than just that. He might be the key to #17.

Now, for the downside. Unfortunately, they’re plentiful.

Despite the trade for a Hall of Fame point guard, those are a lot of future draft picks. Yes, they’ll probably be in the late-twenties, but as we’ve seen with a much more judicious luxury tax, assets like draft selectio… Read more...