Are The Lakers Really Too Old Or Are Their Critics Just Wishfully Thinking?
It’s always funny when people pretend they’re not biased. They usually feel the need to preface everything they say with phrases like, “In my totally unbiased opinion” or “I’m not just saying this because… .”
One of the continuing story lines from the 2011-12 season was how well Steve Nash had maintained his stellar play at the ripe old age of 38. There was the Massachusetts newspaper that ran the story about how Nash continued to “defy logic.” There was SBNation’s Arizona blog answering ”Of course!” when they asked if Nash should get the three-year contract he said he plant to seek in free agency.
Both Ken Berger and Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com had Nash sixth on their lists of the top free agents of 2012. Yahoo!’s Marc J. Spears had Nash ranked third. Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix had him fifth.
Make no mistake, Steve Nash is not your average 39-year-old. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be concerns about his back. It’s just funny that now that he’s a Laker, fans of other teams talk about his back like it’s held together with duct tape. There might not be a more disciplined athlete in all of sports when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle than Nash. He doesn’t eat sugar, he’s an advocate for napping, and his off-season workouts are some of the most grueling you’ll ever see.
My favorite comments came from those who openly mocked the Lakers signing of Nash by mentioning how the Lakers traded last season’s 37-year-old Derek Fisher in an effort to get younger then replaced him with someone even older; as if Steve Nash with a back brace and on crutches isn’t an upgrade over Fisher.
When the Lakers signed 36-year-old Antawn Jamison everyone said he was terrible and he wouldn’t help the Lakers. Jamison might be a horrible defender, but he still managed to average 17 points in the 65 games he started for the Cavs last season. It’s funny how the Heat’s signing of Rashard Lewis was met with a more positive reaction. For the record, Lewis averaged close to eight points per game and shot 24 percent from behind the arc. If you don’t count the 20 games he played his rookie season, last year was by far the worst of his career.
**Jamison, by the way, led the league in points off of open jump shots — something he’ll probably see a lot more of this coming season.
It seems as if there’s a double-standard when it comes to the Lakers. I’ll admit that when the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace or Shaq I cracked a hundred jokes on Twitter about how old they are. But I don’t do it under the guise of trying to sound like a hard-nosed journalist. I make no bones about the fact that I hate the Celtics. It’s just funny that when the Lakers or Celtics sign someone older than 32 they’re “washed-up has-beens”, but when the Spurs do it those same players are referred to as “crafty veterans.”
The new meme is that the Lakers only have one player in his prime, Dwight Howard, and he’s coming off of back surgery. While it’s technically true, it’s a tad bit misleading. Let’s investigate:
Team A: 32, 34, 34, 24, and 25
Team B: 31, 32, 33, 39, and 26
Team A represents the ages of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins when they lost to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals. The second set of numbers represents the current ages of Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard. Three of the five are at least one year younger, one is older by a year, and the other is Nash.
At the same time, I don’t think anyone would argue that four of the Lakers starters aren’t top-5 at their position. I would say top-3 but I don’t want to be called a homer so I’ll just say top-5.
I won’t go so far as to proclaim the Lakers as prohibitive favorites. The Heat are still the favorite and the Thunder’s core will come back next season, not just a year closer to their primes, but with a fire in their belly after losing four straight in the Finals. There will definitely be questions with the Lakers heading into the season. I don’t doubt that. I just question those who think this team is either too old or they won’t mesh without having seen them play. Those guys can use all the numbers they want to back up their claims. Those same critics know they could find just as many stats to back up the opposite claims in support of the Lakers. But there’s a difference between volunteering to play devil’s advocate and just being outright salty.
Let’s watch this team play before we start either planning the parade or declaring it a failure.
I think we can all agree on that.