Steve Nash: The Lakers’ Beacon of Hope
I can now safely say the Los Angeles Lakers are Apple’s iPhone. It’s an abstract simile, I know, but stick with me.
For starters, they’re both arguably the premier products in their respective industries. In recent years, their fiercest competitors have improved their products to the point where they’re on the brink of supplanting them (the Android to the iPhone and the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Lakers). And both the iPhone and the Lakers are very polarizing products, consumers either love them unconditionally or hate them profusely, there’s really no gray area.
The most fitting parallel between the two is that no matter how good both products are, they always manage to find a way to top themselves as only they can; coercing their competitors to start all over again in their pursuit of them.
Take Apple’s slogan for the iPhone 4 for instance: “This Changes Everything. Again.” The Lakers could’ve very well taken that same slogan and applied it to their summers of reloading as I like to call it. Whether it be signing Shaquille O’Neal from the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1996, heisting Gary Payton and Karl Malone for minimum wage in 2004, the Lakers have made it a priority of theirs to reload on the fly rather than scrapping the entire team in order to rebuild.
Initially the Lakers outlook for the summer was extremely grim. Having just been eliminated from the second round for the second consecutive year, they desperately needed to add new pieces to the team; but fans were scratching their heads questioning how they could do so with Kobe Bryant taking up half the salary cap of the new collective bargaining agreement coming into effect soon.
So, when David Aldridge first reported that the Lakers entered the Steve Nash sweepstakes last night I went as far as hash tagging pipedream on Twitter due to the Lakers being handcuffed financially. I never thought Nash would take the Lakers mid-level offer of around $3 million over the Toronto Raptors offer of $36 million over three years.
To put that in layman’s terms, if I’m getting a promotion in my role as a children’s day camp supervisor (my day job) and one community center offered me quadruple the amount of money than another, I’d have a hard time saying no to the money, albeit the array of benefits the other center may entice me with.
What I didn’t think about was the trade exception the Lakers received from the Dallas Mavericks when they supposedly gave away Lamar Odom for nothing. Well nothing has come in the form of a two-time MVP now.
What does this do for the Lakers you ask?
Quite simply, with the help of Phoenix Suns the Lakers just found a way to maximize the last couple years of Kobe Bryant’s protracted prime. Half a year ago, the Lakers looked to remedy their point guard issues by dealing Pau Gasol and Odom for Chris Paul. Last night, they acquired Steve Nash without having to give up Gasol or Andrew Bynum; just four measly draft picks in which the Suns will probably select four guys who you’ll probably never hear from again.
As of today, the Lakers starting lineup will include Steve Nash, Kobe, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Take that in for a second. To quote the now notorious hit from Kanye West and Jay-Z “that (expletive) cray.”
What Nash provides is the ability to make everyone better like no one else in the league. According to ESPN’s department of statistics and information, when Steve Nash was on the court for the Suns last season they scored 103 points per 48 minutes (one full game), when he wasn’t on the floor they scored 90.6 points. The Suns also averaged seven more assists per 48 minutes as a team when Nash was playing. So there’s that.
Nash’s biggest asset as a point guard is creating off the dribble and kicking it out to his three-point shooters. It’s no coincidence that even Shawn Marion, who’s not known for his shooting, shot 33-39 percent from beyond the arc during his time in Phoenix. In comparison, Marion shot 15 percent in his first two years as a Dallas Maverick. And I don’t even need to provide you with statistics to convey Nash transforming Channing Frye from a tweener who didn’t really have a niche into a three-point specialist who competed in the shootout during All-Star weekend in 2010.
Oh, and the fact that Marcin Gortat received some votes to back up Andrew Bynum at this past year’s All-Star game, that was the work of Nash as well.
As much as I love this addition, there are a couple pitfalls. Just as I mentioned when the Lakers acquired Paul, I’m skeptical as to how Kobe will accommodate to a ball-dominant point guard having played with Chucky Atkins, Smush Parker and Derek Fisher his entire career.
For the past couple of years now, experts around the league have also debated if Nash’s offensive genius is enough to offset his defensive deficiencies. While Nash is a major upgrade over Ramon Sessions on one end of the floor, acquiring the 38-year-old doesn’t band-aid the Lakers perpetual struggles of containing point guards like Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.
Alas, during Nash’s apex from 2003-2007, his Phoenix team was known for its high-tempo offense, they were famously dubbed “the seven seconds or less Suns” by Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum. He will certainly have to adapt to the weapons at his disposal in L.A., as the majority of the roster thrives at a much slower pace, especially the twin towers of Gasol and Bynum.
Even with Nash in tow, I feel the Lakers are still a couple pieces away from defeating the Thunder in a seven game series. Convince Rashard Lewis to take the veteran’s minimum to stand in the corner and receive pin-point passes from Nash then we’re talking. In my fantasy world, I’d also like the Lakers to bring Sasha Vujacic back from Turkey so he can also reap the benefits of Nash’s ability to find shooters, but that’s what I have NBA 2K13 for.
Quick tangent: Seeing as I never thought bringing Nash to Tinseltown was a legitimate possibility, I wonder what other rabbits Mitch Kupchak can pull out of his hat.
After the trade announcement, Nash offered a statement in regards to leaving Phoenix. In it he wrote that “this (the NBA) is a tough business and the only thing constant in life is change.” He forgot about the eternal excellence of the iPhone and the team he’s set to lead next season, the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Nash, this certainly changes everything for the Lakers. Again.