Mar 30, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) talks with athletic trainer Gary Vitti after leaving the game against the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Nash and what could have been

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I remember like it was yesterday the night Steve Nash joined the Lakers; it was July 4, and I had been reading all day how the Knicks & Suns were close to a deal for Nash. I remember thinking what a great fit Nash would be in NY, running the point with Carmelo Anthony and his former Suns team-mate Amar’e Stoudemire.  I continued checking twitter all day and into early evening for updates on if the deal had been made. Then, I saw a tweet that stated “Steve Nash agrees to sign & trade with Los Angeles Lakers”.

At first I thought what a cruel tease that the reporter’s twitter had been hacked. Then more tweets came out which said the same thing. I immediately turned on Sports Center, and I really couldn’t believe my eyes; BREAKING NEWS; STEVE NASH TO LAKERS. Three thoughts immediately entered into my mind; 1) I (like most other Lakers’ fans out there) was absolutely ecstatic. 2) The Lakers finally had a point guard. 3) How can David Stern veto this?

The acquistion of Nash was the beginning of an off-season that was filled with gigantic expectations; when the Lakers later acquired Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum, they truly had the makings of a super-team, with 4 future HOF’s in the starting 5. There was true excitement in LA, had fans and analysts imagined Nash running the pick & roll with Howard & Gasol to perfection, and the burden of being facilitator finally coming off Kobe’s shoulders, as all he would (seemingly) have to worry about is getting open for Nash to feed him as well.

As excited as I really was, the only point of caution in the back of my mind was Nash’s health; he was approaching 40 years of age (senior citizen in the NBA), and he had so far been very healthy throughout his career (from what I understand, the trainers in PHX are miracle-workers). How would Nash’s body respond to the new trainers in LA? The pros of having him however, in my mind far out-weighed the cons.

The pre-season got off the a rocky start; the Lakers didn’t win a single game (though it was exhibition, so who really cares?). From the little that I saw though, I was almost immediately confused and a little frustrated; Mike Brown didn’t seem to be utilizing Nash at all. I didn’t see any pick & rolls, and Nash was mostly operating as a spot-up shooter. I kept thinking to myself, “Brown has one of the all-time greats at his position at his disposal, why isn’t he utilizing him at all??”

Then, in the second game of the season, the unthinkable happened; Nash banged knees with Blazers’ rookie point guard Damian Lillard and was taken out of the game. We all thought he would be back that night, next game, or the week after at the latest. Not the case. We found out that Nash had indeed fractured a bone in his knee in the collision, and the resulting nerve damage would keep him out indefinitely.

What was supposed to be a week-long injury turned into 2 months. During that time, the Lakers fired Brown, and brought in Nash’s old Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. MDA came in with high expectations as well, particular for Nash. No one knew MDA’s system better than Nash, and MDA knew how to utilize Nash to his fullest extend. As soon as Nash came back from injury, the Lakers would be rolling. Again, not the case.

Due to a lack of training camp, the Lakers’ bigs had great difficulty adjusting to MDA’s system, and had a lot of trouble finding the right chemistry with Nash. Chemistry was a big issue throughout the season, as Nash was supposed to be a focal point of the offense, but because of his injury, couldn’t develop the chemistry needed with his team-mates. Nash’s aging body was also becoming an issue (as feared).  As a result, Bryant was once again put in the facilitator role, with Nash serving as a spot-up shooter. It had moderate success, but was often painful to watch as of the great PG’s of all time often struggled to even approach the double-digit assists that seemed to come to easy for him while with the Suns. He was able to record his 10,000th career assist (only the 5th player ever to do so) in a loss to Houston.  Nash missed the last 8 games of the regular season due to hip and hamstring issues.

There are (cautiously) high expectations for Nash again next season. The Lakers hope that with a full training camp under MDA, and a full summer of recovery (which Nash has already begun work on), Nash can finally find the chemistry with his team-mates (primarily bigs) that was so sorely lacking this season, and the Lakers can utilize him as a the point guard they had in mind last July. His minutes will probably not increase, but hopefully his games played will after a career-hgh 32 games missed this season due to injury. I personally still have hope Nash can be the point guard the Lakers so desperately need.

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