Less than a week ago, basketball fans the world over reacted with shock, surprise and excitement (depending on which camp you’re in) as two-time MVP Steve Nash donned the illustrious purple and gold and officially became a Laker. After a 16-year career that has often seen him carry the burden of the team on his shoulders, most fans would agree when I say, “Well, it’s about time!”
After the LA Lakers were denied the opportunity to bring in an equally eager Chris Paul in December 2011, this deal could have deep ramifications in the 2012-13 NBA regular season and playoffs. With big players moving to big teams, this might just be the icing on the cake – a sweet deal for both Nash and the Lakers (Phoenix fans may turn away at this point). A player who has been on top of the assists and free-throw average charts, combined with a lethal three-point shooting percentage; he’s also had a career filled with honours ranging from two MVP awards and 8 All-Star selections.
What more does a team starved of a reliable playmaker need?
Having carried the Phoenix Suns almost single-handedly since 2004, it was time for a change. The Lakers are no strangers to Nash. They’ve faced off against each other many times in the Western Conference. One of the more memorable moments was in 2006, when he helped the Suns overcome a 3-1 Lakers lead to win the series 4-3. Over the past few seasons, he has been, as Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak put it, “a thorn in the Lakers’ side”.
There is no doubt as to why Nash is considered one of the best point guards in NBA history. But to earn a place in the pantheon of basketball greats, his legend is incomplete. The Lakers have had a few legends themselves filling the point-guard position. Names that spring to mind are; Jerry West – the man fittingly known as “Mr. Clutch” (also known for the NBA logo you see on TV and merchandise) and Magic Johnson – one of the greatest players to have played basketball. More recently, they had Derek Fisher whose leadership on and off the court was a big miss for the Lakers after he was traded to OKC Thunder.
The one notable difference between Nash and these players? They have a ring.
The New Big Four?
So how is Coach Mike Brown going to make Nash fit into this now ‘potential title threat’ Lakers team? Well, he definitely has his offensive work cut out. For starters, his presence on the court will take a huge weight off Kobe Bryant’s shoulders. Let’s face it, Kobe isn’t getting any younger, he’s 33 now. He hasn’t had an ideal summer break since he’s taking part in the 2012 Olympics in London. Asking him to come back and play 40 minutes a game will punish his body, especially his knee.
Last season, they had Sessions filling in the PG role and his stats don’t even come close to Nash’s. If Nash could rack up assists like it was nobody else’s business with a weak supporting cast in Phoenix, imagine what he can accomplish with a line-up that includes Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol playing in the pivot and high post positions. With his impeccable eye for a pass combined with terrific ball handling skills and his ability to use the pick and roll to his advantage, Nash could use the two to either create shots for the others or free himself to shoot. He always was a huge advocate of the pick and roll move. It worked to near perfection when he played with Dirk Nowitzki at Dallas and more recently with Amare Stoudemire at Phoenix.
He loves to unlock defences by spreading the game, freeing up other players and allow them to take simple shots rather than expecting them to worry about nailing jumpers from tough positions. Considering he’s more of a playmaker (he’s even chosen the #10 jersey – the playmaker’s role in football, another sport he holds close to his heart), we’re going to see more plays coming from him, giving Kobe a chance to free himself and take his shots without worrying about handling the ball in pressure situations.
The only factor I would be worried about is Nash’s fitness. He’s 38 (yes, I know Jason Kidd was 38 too when he won his first ring). But he has had problems with tightening of his back muscles, a condition known as spondylolisthesis. But if the Lakers can keep him fit for the next campaign, we can expect this team to go places; especially if Gasol and Bynum stay with the franchise.
For Nash, moving to a Lakers team with two 7-footers and one Kobe Bryant is “a dream come true for a point guard.” As the Lakers go in search of a record equalling 17th NBA title, fans can only hope that his dream has a fairy tale ending!
Stats from NBA.com