Looking Ahead for Steve Nash: Part Two


Apr 21, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) shoots during game one of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at AT

*This is the second part of three –changed from two to three — (part one can be found here) in which I talk about the role I would like Steve Nash to play next year. Sorry for the wait. I would have had this out sooner, but I got busy doing a bunch of draft profiles, free agency, Dwight Howard, Summer League, and just being busy.

In the first part of this, I talked about Steve Nash being like a used toy at a garage sale. Someone told me it sounded like Toy Story, so of course I went and watched Toy Story to make it into an analogy. This is what I came up with:  Steve Nash is Woody, Kobe Bryant is Buzz Lightyear, Dwight Howard is Lotso, and Pau Gasol is Rex.

I know Kobe is the old toy and Nash is the new toy, but Kobe is the one everyone pays attention to. Nash has been the quiet, but consistently amazing player, where Kobe is the star that has all eyes on him in everything he does. Nash isn’t polarizing, the Black Mamba is. Woody isn’t flashy, Buzz is. Bryant wants to be the center of attention, so does Buzz.

No, I didn’t forget about Gasol and Howard. Pau is Rex because he freaks out about everything, just like Pau does when he hears his name in trade rumors. No, he doesn’t talk about it, but we see it on the court at times. This may be a bit of a sensitive spot for Laker fans, but I have to throw it in there: Dwight Howard is Lotso the Bear. Lotso was friendly towards Woody and the gang, just like Howard was when he first arrived on the Lakers; however, once the toys got to know him, they knew he was a jerk and a backstabber, just like Laker fans feel about Dwight Howard.

Anyways, enough with the analogies, let’s talk basketball. The Lakers were a train wreck this past season, we all saw it. Injuries, coach and players not being on the same page, and injuries were a big part of that. Did I mention that injuries played a big role in the season from hell? Injuries might play the same role next season in the form of Kobe Bryant. He tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the season, and we don’t know when he will come back.

Kobe said he will be ready by the start of next season, but no one knows what percentage he will be able to play at. If he ends up being like Dwight Howard was at the start of the season, then he needs to come back later in the season. If he does come back later in the season — which this piece is based on– Steve Nash is going to need to play a larger role in the offense.

Nash’s usage percentage was 17.8 percent; that was the lowest of his career since 1999-2000. His career average is 21 percent, and I would like to see his higher than that this coming season — at least until Kobe comes back. What I want is a heavy dosage of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol pick-and-pop where he pops around the free throw line for a mid-range jumper.

Lets take a look at the advanced stats for a second, shall we? According to Synergy, Nash was used as the pick-and-roll ball handler 53.3 percent of the time last season. In that time he was used, he averaged .87 PPP (Points Per Possession). Out of all the players evaluated, Nash ranked as the 30th best. Unfortunately, that only accounts for shooting, and doesn’t include passing. I’m sure he would rank higher if passing was part of the equation (at least for the level I have). As far as shooting goes, Nash shot 48.9 percent from the field, and 31.8 percent from three.

What’s weird about those stats is that Nash is a much better shooter than what the percentages show. For his career, Nash is averaging 42.8 percent from three and 49.1 percent from the field. One reason his three point percentage went down is because he only shot 22 times as a pick-and-roll ball handler. If Nash would have hit just 10-22 from beyond the arc, his percentage would have increased to 45.5 percent — three more conversions, and his percentage raises by 13.7 percent. There’s a reason I’m not too worried about his low percentage — small sample sizes aren’t very useful. (Hint: Part three may be how his shooting will be affected by the new toys)

For some visual examples of what a Nash/Gasol pick-and-pop would look like, I put in some tape down below.

This first play is pretty basic; Nash is bringing the ball up, and Gasol sets him a pick at the top of the key. Jarrett Jack gets stuck on the screen, which lead to Carl Landry having to hedge hard on Nash. Jack then goes to try and guard Nash, but Landry can’t switch because Nash would have had an open jump shot. Because of this, Pau Gasol is wide open for the mid-range jumper, which he nails.

This second play is pretty similar to the first one. Nash is bringing the ball up at the top of the screen, while everyone but Gasol is on the other side of the court. When Gasol sets the screen, and then slips it, there is no one to guard Pau once Ray Allen and Joel Anthony try and guard Nash, much like Jack and Landry in the video above.

The pick-and-pop can be a deadly play for the Lakers this coming season, especially when Gasol plays center. With Pau playing center, his defender will have to come out of the paint, which would then allow the Lakers guards an easier path to the basket.

With Woody’s partner, Buzz Lightyear, most likely not being at 100 percent by the start of the season, he will need to become a larger role in the offense than he was last season. There are a couple different ways Nash can become a bigger part of the offense, and I have total confidence in the tandem of Kobe/Mike D’Antoni/Nash figuring out a way to do it.

Tags: Los Angeles Lakers Steve Nash

  • hookedonnews

    I think we can pretty much discard the stats from last year. There’s no reason that Nash and Gasol can’t be a potent duo. If you’ll look at the games where Howard was out last season, you’ll see a preview of that. My biggest concern is how Kobe Bryant fits into the offense when he returns. His isolation plays and ball-holding can really disrupt an offense like D’Antoni’s. I hope that Kobe will play within the system. There is no reason that he can’t still be the man with the ball in his hands in the 4th quarter, and he should be able to get a lot of open shots within the flow of the offense. It remains to be seen, however, if he’ll be satisfied with that. I hope he’ll buy in because if he does they should have a scoring machine in LA, and he won’t have to do it all on his own.

    • Fern Rea

      The system should fit the players, not the other way around.

      Kobe is and has been effective playing a certain way. He has 5 rings and 7 finals appearances playing his way. How many does D’Antoni have?

      D’Antoni tried to ram his system down the throats of Dwight, Gasol and Kobe last year until there was a mutiny. With that mutiny and change of approache they went 28-12 with Kobe being Kobe for the most of that run.

      If you force a player to fit a system you then lose the effectiveness of that player. When that player is as important, productive and dynamic as Kobe, you lose what makes this team as good as it is or can be.

      It was lesson learned last year for D’Antoni. Cant make the same mistake again.

      • Daryl Peek

        I agree on the lesson learned for D’Antoni. This is why he’s stated Gasol and Kaman will play together, and i believe that’s why he wanted Rambis on staff. Flexibility is the lesson he learned.

        I disagree on the forcing of his system on the players. He never got a chance to run his preferred style due to all the injuries. Couple that with Howard refusing to run pick-n-roll with Nash. Howard had to be featured. He wanted post touches, something he’s not great at, and definitely was a spacing problem with him and Pau on the floor together.

        Howard’s rant about his low touches in comparison to Kobe highlighted the personal dissent that was far and away more problematic than the perceived D’Antoni system. The Mutiny in Memphis was about that friction more so.

        28-12 was more about players getting healthy then the system dynamic. Gasol and Blake began to really step up down the stretch due to better health.

        • Fern Rea

          I agree with everything until the last paragraph. Go back during that 28-12 run and many of those games were won by some incredible performances by Kobe. The Lakers were down by what 25 in New Orleans? The Toronto game, at Portland game, Atlanta at home, New Orleans again at home. Kobe doesn’t bail the Lakers out with these performances the Lakers don’t even make the playoffs.

          • Daryl Peek

            Again, because of injuries Kobe had to do that. Gasol missed 33 games right before and during that run. Blake and Nash were out for many of those games also. Clark had hit the wall at that time and Metta was battling his short term knee injury. Kobe was playing 45 minutes a game during that time. Most of the crucial wins down the stretch were when the team was at almost full strength. Kobe carried the team in Feb. & March.

        • Fern Rea

          The mutiny was about the system and it was apparent that it was the system that changed towards the end of the year.

          • Daryl Peek

            We’ll agree to disagree.

            I agree there was a shift in how the team played. D’antoni alluded to this when he said they decided. It was more about health than system, and Kobe’s mindset in trying to make Howard comfortable in LA.

            Kobe was in Howard’s face in that meeting about Howard constantly talking behind his back. It was at that point Kobe began to mutter he doesn’t care if Howard is happy, and began to again push Gasol to get into the post. Gasol’s rebounding and assist rose tremendously over time as he got into better shape coming off sitting games out during Jan-March. Blake did also. Blake carried the team in many games down the stretch. Kobe role can never be marginalized but it’s always the rise of his teammates that equals wins VS. losses.

          • hookedonnews

            Steve Nash said that they never played D’Antoni’s system this season.

      • hookedonnews

        Your scenario of a mutiny is a little over-blown, but there’s no point in getting into all that. I could explain why it took so long to establish a team chemistry, but that would take too long. If you’ll listen to/read some of the recent interviews with Steve Nash you will understand. We’re not talking about a system. We’re talking about one player who wants to do it his way regardless of the system. This is not something that suddenly appeared with the hiring of MDA. Kobe won his 3 rings with Shaq by being willing to share the ball with him. However, toward the end of his time in LA, Kobe was less and less willing to do that. Kobe was not being Kobe for most of that 28-12 run this season. He was passing more and shooting less. You shouldn’t have to “force” a player to pass the ball to an open teammate when he’s covered or let the PG run the offense. Those may be foreign concepts to some, but that’s how teams win championships. Kobe is in my mind the best player in the league, but last year proved that although he might be able to win a game against the Hornets all by himself and pull off other spectacular feats in certain games, that is not going to sustain a team over a season. When he was doing all that shooting early in the year they were losing. The team was lethargic because when players aren’t involved in the offense they don’t get back on defense. As a team they played much better on both ends of the floor when he stopped doing that. That is his game. He likes to get the ball, and he likes to shoot. Look it up and read his quotes or read Phil Jackson’s books. It’s not a secret. Shooting is not a problem as long as you’re open and have a good shot. As I said, if he will play within the system he’ll have tons of open shots and will still be the star. He will also have the ball in the 4th quarter with the game on the line. If he chooses, however, to hold the ball and go iso repeatedly throughout the game and shoot with 2 or 3 people on him while everyone else stands around, they aren’t going to be the kind of team they could be. His individual talent can go a long way, but it’s not going to the finals or even the conference finals. There were no championships after Shaq until Pau arrived. All I’m asking is that he be a team player and give the system a chance. He was willing to play the Princeton offense (one of the worst offenses ever). If we were talking about anyone other than Kobe, I think you would agree. Even if he comes back 100%, he can’t do it all by himself. I think you misunderstand what D’Antoni learned this season. Howard is gone, and he’s unlikely to go with some low-post half-court offense. There are new players who are looking forward to playing in D’Antoni’s system, including Gasol. It would be great if Kobe would join in.

        • Fern Rea

          Everything in your response is factually wrong.

          Kobe won 3 rings with Shaq “willing to share the ball with him”?
          Outside of the first championship when Kobe was just barely starting to come into the Superstar aggressive offensive machine that we all know, Kobe shot the ball a lot.

          2001 Reg sea: 28.5 ppg, 22.2 FGApg
          2001 Playoffs: 29.4 ppg, 22.4 FGApg

          2002 Reg sea:25.2 ppg, 20.0 FGApg
          2002 Playoffs: 26.6 ppg, 22.7 FGApg

          As you can see, Kobe played just as agressive with Shaq as he did the rest of his career.

          As far as Kobe passing more and shooting less during the 28-12 run, that wasnt really not the case. There were a few games where he did pile up assist and keep his shots down, but towards the end he went back to the offensive machine.

          What did happen with Kobe is he dominated the ball more, taking over the ball handling duties and using Nash more as an off guard. But his shot output was still his normal output.

          In the last 4 months which covers the last of Kobe’s 36 games and most of that 28-12 run:

          PPG: 24.4, 23.9, 26.6, 30.5
          FGA: 20.9, 17.8, 19.8, 21.0

          Kobe doesnt usually take shots with 3 guys on him or horrible shots like you claim. He does occasionally but not often and there is usually a reason.

          Kobe has one 5 rings and 7 rings playing like he has. It doesnt make sense to change that.

          And it is better put that Shaq didnt a ring until he played with Kobe and the same for Pau.
          Of the Last 5 rings which player is the constant? Shaq? Nope. Pau? Nope. Kobe? yes.

          • hookedonnews

            Sorry, but what I said is well-documented. I never said anything about scoring stats. You can still have good scoring numbers and be sharing the ball. Who was the Finals MVP during those years? With regard to the 28-12 run, at the end of it Nash was out. That changed things, but what I said is still true for the majority of those games. I don’t know why you want to deny reality. The point about winning rings is that Kobe couldn’t win a ring by himself. If he could, he would have won a lot more than 5 rings. Kobe took 41 shots in one game this season. He took more shots than anyone in the NBA. If you were watching the games you know that what I said is the rule, not the exception. Kobe wouldn’t deny that. Why don’t you google some of his comments about the way he plays? And no, he was not shooting as much when he was facilitating. I’m thinking that you weren’t actually watching the games. Everything I’ve said is common knowledge. It’s not just my opinion. I’m not saying that Kobe needs to turn into some passive guy who shoots 10 times a game. I’m just saying don’t try to do it all. You have some good teammates, and this is a team game. He can still make spectacular shots and posterize people playing within the offense and be the leading scorer. He just shouldn’t be shooting 41 times.

        • savi

          Phew! that was long comment. Kobe sure is willing to join in on different offensive system. He himself told Mike Brown to bring in Princeton offense, because at times in 2011-2012 season, one could see Lakers stuck in offense and Kobe, guarded by best defender, had to jack up long shot. An offensive system which will let everyone get involved will sure take lot of pressure off Kobe to operate on both ends of court and during the clutch, That’s what we will like to see

          • hookedonnews

            I agree.

    • Daryl Peek

      We have like minds. I 100% agree! Most Laker fans get butt hurt defensive when you speak like this about Kobe. It’s not a slight at all.

      • hookedonnews

        I agree with most of what you said. It’s true that Nash was never 100%, but I don’t agree that injury was the only problem. D’Antoni said sometime during the second half of the season in an interview that the rest of the team was not making it possible for Nash to succeed. You know about Howard and his lack of cooperation. That was just one factor, but there’s no reason to go back and re-hash all that. Hopefully everyone will be healthy and on the same page next season. It should be fun to watch. I’m ready for the season to start now. I’ve been watching some classic games on NBA TV. Watching Kevin McHale play really showed me how lacking in skills Dwight Howard is. Even Bill Laimbeer had a great outside shot. And then there’s Magic and Bird and Abdul-Jabbar. Great stuff.

  • http://loveandraisins.tumblr.com/ Terrance Mann

    i’m really excited to see nash and gasol without the presence of howard. i honestly wish that could have been the lineup last year. no howard and a better bench. but we’ll see. i think kobe’s isolation mentality is blown out of proportion. he usually is demanding at three possible time in a game: the beginning, the end, or during a hot streak in the second or third quarters. it’s never all three. he loves playing team ball when his team is focused. you can tell he enjoys it. of course he loves to score, but he also loves aggressive teammates. i think no matter what system they use, it will be up to nash to match kobe’s aggression by getting pau involved. also, nick young will be a breath of fresh air. i have a feeling he may want to be play kobe’s pippen this season. which means we’ll see a defensive effort from him. and with the exposure in LA, he’ll have a chance to chase the MIP award. i have high hopes, so what

    • Fern Rea

      Exactly.

      Kobe becomes aggressive offensively as a reaction to what is happening on the court.

      If the guys are standing around and not being aggressive themselves, If nothing else offensively is working, if its crunch time, if the Lakers have gotten behind by a big deficit. Maybe the Lakers have been getting off to bad starts so he’ll be aggressive early. Maybe he is on one so he’ll shoot till he cools off.

      • Daryl Peek

        100% agree on Kobe’s aggressiveness. Like Shaq said, “Kobe is not gonna wait for you” Rightfully so. But one of the weakness that can manifest on a team with a player like that is teammate speculation. Especially when you don’t have a group that came up together.

        Kobe grew up with the Shaq era group, and they all had the balls to keep him in check. Unbalanced grooming’s conditioning is what almost cost the team against the Celtics in 2010 as it did in 08. The entire narrative of the 09-10 season was that struggle.

        I vividly remember the on off switch mentality most touted that season. I always thought differently. I saw it as a team chemistry issue that was becoming more and more of a problem. We saw that ticking time bomb explode the next season in Dallas. We are still trying to recover, and as Jeanie said in her 710 interview the new CBA has elongated that process. This is why I preach patience Lakers Nation.