Over the past two games, too often did Steve Nash look like Derek Fisher or Steve Blake while simply bringing the ball up the court slowly, before handing it off to either Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard along the perimeter.
That is not the best course for this team, unfortunately.
Even after Phil Jackson’s last stint as a head coach during the 2011 season, he confessed that the team needed to get younger, quicker, and be able to get easy buckets in transition.
This team is not younger or much quicker, but they definitely have the ability to get easy baskets in transition and even in the half-court set.
Sure, I’ve been advocating the use of Pau Gasol since last season when he was under-utilized, and felt that he should have been given the responsibility to set the table in the paint, but when you have one of the most capable point guards of all time on your team, that has to be your number one offense.
Could you have imagined Magic Johnson walking the ball up the court only to drop it off to someone else? Never in a million years. Magic was the most dangerous man on the team with the ability to get the ball to any of his teammates with a pinpoint pass. Steve Nash may not be Magic Johnson, but he is damn talented.
When you have Kobe Bryant on the team as well, no, Nash is not going to always have the ball in his hands during crunch time or even in the first three quarters. But, along with Kobe, the two can be extremely deadly if they can keep opposing teams guessing with their creativity.
The bottom line here is although it’s great when everyone touches the ball and is involved in a play, you can’t just have Steve Nash walking the ball up the court set on initiating the Princeton Offense. No, you need him to carve his way throughout the lane and make things happen the way he knows how to do so very well.
You need Steve Nash to be Steve Nash.
The offensive system was implemented because of the offensive talent, passing ability, versatility, and basketball IQ this team collectively possesses, and is designed to utilize all of that. However, because of that exact talent, if you let Nash pick opposing defenses apart from the start or at least break down the first line of defense, whatever player he throws the ball to next will be capable of making the following play.
In other words, unlike teams he’s played on in the past, Nash doesn’t necessarily have to set everyone up to score–he can set them up to make a pass too. The Princeton is often used when a team doesn’t have a supremely capable play-maker at the point guard position, and therefore utilizes all the players on the team to make plays. However, if Nash is allowed to break down the defense first instead of the Princeton breaking it down, this could prove to be even more effective than the Princeton in many situations because of the level of talent on the team.
Essentially, Nash could attack first and break down the defense, pass it to any one of his teammates, and allow them to pass the heck out of the ball from there until someone is wide open for an easy layup or three-pointer. Or, he could do what he’s so accustomed to doing and break down the defense single-handedly and put his teammates in a position to score easily.
Additionally, he and Dwight Howard are capable of killing opposing teams with pick-and-rolls, so why not utilize that as well? Coach Brown used to love the pick-and-roll as recently as last season, so why not completely change your original philosophy?
The worst thing a team or coach can do is become stubborn or stuck on one method of attack. Although the Princeton gives the team options, they have a myriad of options in the form of Steve Nash.
The bottom line here is that Steve Nash needs the ball in his hands and needs the freedom to do what he does and create plays for others.
At the very least, if Mike Brown is stuck on his team running the Princeton the majority of the game, let Nash run with the reserves a bit more. Steve Blake is more than capable of walking the ball up the floor and initiating the Princeton without any problem. At least allowing Nash to run with the bench a bit more would elevate those guys’ level of play.
Obviously, I don’t agree with that either and think that Nash should be able to go nuts with the exceptional talent he’s surrounded with in the starting lineup, but his talents need to be utilized one way or the other.
The Lakers don’t have a huge window of time to win a championship, and the regular season has finally begun. Although any new offensive system will take time to learn and will be a struggle, for the Lakers it doesn’t have to be that.
The Lakers have the luxury of an offensive genius in the form of Steve Nash. Here’s a two-time MVP who holds career averages of 14.4 points and 8.6 assists. Here’s a player who holds incredible career scoring percentages in field goals (49.1%), three-pointers (42.8), and free-throws (90.4). Here’s a player who is essentially an offensive system of his own!
Mike Brown has to realize this and fully utilize him.
Hopefully, Steve Nash will make a speedy recovery and no longer be limited by his injury or the new offense when he returns.