Los Angeles Lakers Getting Older but Much Better with Steve Nash

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IJuly 10, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers Getting Older but Much Better with Steve Nash

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder exposed all the Los Angeles Lakers' weaknesses while eliminating them from the 2011-12 playoffs.

    Point guard, small forward, the bench, and outside shooting were the main problems. They also need a player that can take some of the pressure off of Kobe Bryant.

    It was also suggested that they get younger and more athletic to compete with teams like the Thunder and Miami Heat. That way, they could keep up with the up-tempo style of play the top two NBA teams have.

    But younger is also less experienced, which cost the Thunder against the Heat in the finals. If the Lakers are going to win another title during the Kobe Bryant era, they can't wait for younger players to come around.   

    So out of dead nowhere,  the Lakers made the ultimate win-now move and got Steve Nash. Nash increases the age of the Lakers point guard position by 12 years over former Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions.

    But he also increases the Lakers chances of winning an NBA championship.

    Turn the page to see how and why. 


No. 1: Help That Bryant Respects and Trusts

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    It's really funny to hear the so-called NBA experts say, "Kobe can't do it by himself anymore." Bryant never could, because if he could, the Lakers would have won championships when he averaged 35 points per game.

    Bryant had help before with Pau Gasol, leading to two NBA titles, but he has vanished lately. Bryant trusted Gasol to take the game-winner against the Thunder in the 2012 playoffs but Gasol didn't trust himself.

    Gasol then passed it back to the Thunder to lose the game, giving the Thunder control of the series. Bryant also got the ball back with three seconds on the shot clock for a bad shot too often this past season.

    Taking shots with three guys on him doesn't win championships, so Bryant is going to have to give the ball up to someone he can trust. Nash is the kind of guy Bryant will trust and respect enough to give the ball to. 

    Much of that comes from their fierce playoff battles that Nash came out on the winning end of at times. Being an All-Star, elite player at his position, and future Hall of Famer just like Bryant doesn't hurt either.

    He's the only guy on the Lakers whose skills, professionalism, and basketball I.Q. even come close to Bryant's. Nash can also talk during a timeout when things aren't going well and not have Bryant say, "Shush!"  

    That's because like Bryant, he broke into the association in 1996 and still plays at a high level. Bryant shed light on that on ESPN, speaking of how neither he or Nash got were they are without high expectations.

    Bryant now has a Staples Center roommate he respects and trusts.

No. 2: Nash Still Has It

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    Bryant doesn't just respect his new roommate because of his past, Nash showed last season that he clearly still has it. He did so by leading the NBA in total assists and shooting 53 percent from the field last season. 

    I guess he still drinks his milk while keeping himself in great condition, making him a young 38. He almost made the playoffs in 2011-12 while averaging over 10 assists without a 20 PPG scorer on the roster.

    The talent in he has in Los Angeles to work with will allow Nash to show that he is still the best table setter in the NBA. Throughout his career, he has proven that he always makes those around him better.

    He'll do that again next season, but this time he is surrounded by the kind of greatness that will make him better in return.

    The fact that Nash can still penetrate, dish, shoot the three, and play the uptempo style he's known for takes away many of the Lakers weaknesses by himself.

    I believe he's bringing some old friends along to shore up the Lakers' remaining weaknesses. 

    The Lakers will be even older but better as a result.

No. 3: Brining Grant Hill with Him

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    Being Bryant's Staples Center roommate, Nash can bring in his stuff with him from Phoenix. Yes, I'm talking about 39-year-old Grant Hill, who's older but way more athletic than 33-year-old Metta World Peace.

    Hill showed last year that he can still run, jump and play lock-down defense with the best of them. The Lakers have already been trying to figure out what to do with Peace's big contract, and Hill won't be expensive.

    The Lakers have expressed interest in Hill over the last few days, and according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News on Twitter, Hill will either join Nash and Bryant in Los Angeles or retire. https://twitter.com/#!/search/frank%20isola

    The "Kobe" procedure Hill just had done on his knees says he'll join Nash and Bryant. Hill did well head- to-head, on the court, per 36 minutes (starter's minutes per game) against LeBron James and Kevin Durant last season.

    He held James to 16 points on 47 percent shooting while scoring 19 himself shooting 57 percent. He also held Durant to 20 on 32 percent while scoring 14 on 39 percent.

    Peace came up with the same scoring numbers vs Durant but Durant shot 43 percent with Peace shooting 40 percent and scored 16 on 50 percent to James' 22 on 45 percent.

    Offensively, Hill runs well with Nash, takes it to the hole, and stretches the defense with three-point shooting. If the Lakers decide to hold on to Peace, either one of them and come the bench, strengthening it.

    Either way, the Lakers then get older while tightening up another weakness.

No. 4: Bringing Raja Bell with Him

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    Nash could be bringing even more with him as he moves into Staples Center. A shooting guard off the bench that plays tough defense and shoots the three is just what the Lakers need.

    That, with either Peace or Hill to go along with a hopefully re-signed Jordan Hill, would make the Lakers bench strong. Nash just might be bringing that to the Lakers too in the form of his close friend, Raja Bell.

    Bell is 35 and played a few years with Nash and Hill back in Phoenix, so there's plenty of familiarity there. There is also plenty of familiarity with Bryant, who Bell has been in all of those playoff battles with.

    Bryant tried unsuccessfully to recruit Bell to the Lakers before, but he now has Nash as an ally. According to Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bell just agreed to a buyout with the Utah Jazz.  

    The Miami Heat and the Lakers are now front runners for his service at the veteran's minimum.

    Bell will get the same compensation wherever he goes, with Miami being his hometown. But the Heat are deeper at the shooting guard position so he figures to contribute more in Los Angeles.

    How about Nash being a close friend as a tie breaker?

    The Lakers then get older and better on the bench.

No. 5: Nash and Bryant Will Make Each Other Better

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    Now that we have Nash and all he's bringing with him, the question is how can he and Bryant play together?

    While many question how Nash will play with Bryant, I say they will make each other better. In an interview on ESPN, Nash spoke on Bryant's desire to have him handle the ball and make plays for others.

    This way Bryant can simply go back to being who and what he has always been, a scorer. But if you believe it's going to be like that in every minute of every game, you are mistaken.

    Sure, I expect Nash to turn Bryant back into a 30-point per game score with less shots by getting him better looks. And yes, Nash's assists will go up to around 13 per game with a finisher like Bryant, but that's not all.

    Bryant will facilitate at times and get Nash, an excellent outside shooter, some open looks. So while Bryant actually starts to get assists for some of his great passes, Nash will score a little more.  

    Nash being such a great shooter will also open up Bryant's drive to the rim and post-up game. With the defense unwilling to come off of Bryant, Nash will be able to score off of penetration, too.

    Then with all the attention on Nash and Bryant, Nash can drop dimes to the rest of the Lakers. Defensively, Bryant will have the energy to switch off on guys like Russell Westbrook because Nash will handle the ball.

No. 6: Makes Pau Gasol a Factor Again

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    Gasol has come up small in the last two playoff appearances for the Lakers, leading to many trade rumors. As soft as he may be, he is still the most versatile and skilled big man in the NBA.

    Gasol finishing the 2011-12 season with a career-low 17 points per game isn't an indication of his skills declining. The problems were he had an emerging Andrew Bynum in the post with no real shooters. 

    With two seven-footers and no outside shooting, all opposing defenses had to do is pack the paint. It's tough to get points against a packed paint because there are so many big bodies in there. 

    That even affects Bryant because he has no room to drive the lane, so he settled for jumpers most of the time. Now, with Nash's three-point shooting, opposing defenses will no longer be able to simply pack the paint.  

    Nash will also be able to get Gasol easy shots out of the pick-and-roll the way he did with Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix. Gasol has good range on his jumper, so pick-and rolls on the perimeter will also help.

    And if Gasol consistently hits from 15-17 feet out, the Lakers offense becomes unstoppable.

No.7: Improve Bynum's Game

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    There have been a lot of rumors of an Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard swap with of course no results. Lakers fans need to go ahead and get out of that world because it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

    The latest reason preventing the trade seems to be Bynum not being willing to sign an extension. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo NBA reported that on twitter.                                           

    On Yahoo NBA, Wojnarowski also reports a source saying, "If Bynum remains a Laker past the Howard Derby, he'll have a strong incentive to accept a maximum contract extension to stay in L.A. Otherwise, he has expressed the desire to test the free-agent market.

    You can't blame Bynum for wanting to stay because he knows what he'll be able to do with Nash. A few pick-and rolls will be good for Bynum to get some easy shots and then back to the low post to go to work.

    I'm sure Bynum will work hard on passing out of double-teams so he can to hit Nash for three next season. I know everybody wants Superman in Los Angeles, but Bynum could surpass Howard this year with Nash.

    I understand Bynum's immaturity but with responsibility comes maturity, and Nash will give him plenty of that.   

No. 8: Improve Mike Brown's Offense

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    Mike Brown's arrival in Laker Nation has made the Lakers much better on defense right away. However, many in Laker Nation are calling for his head because his offensive system leaves a lot to be desired.

    The Lakers offense cost them in the playoffs with its lack of diversity, so many want Brown fired. Lakers president Jim Buss won't do that, and Brown doesn't have a coach for the offense but the Laker will still be fine.

    That's because Bryant and Nash will put their heads together and come up with a brilliant plan. At times, Bryant had to take the team back to the triangle offense and draw up plays during timeouts this past year.

    Brown's one-four-flat offense always puts Kobe at the top of the key with the ball while the rest of the team stands there. Nash can bring elements from his uptempo, pick-and-roll offense and they could put it together. 

    With Nash and Bryant putting their two high basketball I.Q.s together, the offense will move and Brown can focus on the D. That way, Brown learns something about offense and gets a ring in the process.

    As much as Nash is a pick-and-roll player, he will easily fit into Bryant's triangle offense at times as a deadly shooter. This will give the Lakers options to go to according to what they want to do at any given time.

    The diversity will be a far cry from Brown's predictable offense. 

No. 9: In the Clutch

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    Bryant has always made his living in the clutch with all of the dramatic, game-winning shots he's made. The design of the offense and the lack of clutch threats with Bryant caused his clutch numbers to dip last season.     

    That's because his clutch shots came against the entire defense this past year. But this coming year, in a way, the Lakers will have the showtime of Magic Johnson and the dramatic shots of Derek Fisher back all in Nash, because he is an excellent clutch shooter.

    This means opposing defenses can't focus on just Bryant in pressure situations. Nash will now be able to knock down clutch shots and/or take some of the attention away from Bryant so he can make his.

    The bottom line is if Bryant can't get a good shot off, he'll have someone he trusts to pass to in the clutch.

No. 10: Motivation

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    Of course, the Lakers are always motivated to win a title every year but it's different now. Bryant, the rest of the team, and the fans have the ultimate respect for one of the best point guards to ever play the game.

    Therefore, there will be a little more motivation for Bryant and Co. to win one for Nash, who deserves it. The love will also be there for Hill, who had all-time greatness robbed by injuries, but can make it all right with a ring.

    Remember, it was Bryant that sold Nash on the Lakers in the first place so he will be locked in. Nash and Hill themselves are motivated as they are near the end of their careers to finally get to compete for a title.   

    Bell is at the end of his career trying to win one as a role player and Bryant himself doesn't have a lot of time to get his sixth championship.

    Then you'll have Bynum wanting to prove he's better than Howard after almost being traded for him.

    In 2012-13, no one is going to have more heart and motivation than the Lakers.

No. 11: The Story Lines

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    The story lines are going to be amazing.

    Bryant will be trying to win his sixth title to tie Michael Jordan while Nash, who's been so great for so long tries to win his first. Hill almost died of an infection from surgery to repair basketball injury to one of his legs in '03.

    So in a sense, you can say the Hill almost died over the game that he loves so much. Bynum has an interesting story himself as the kid on the team growing up and the drama of the failed Howard trade.

    How about Bell clotheslining Bryant in one playoffs and helping him in another years later?

    Then you have the generational part of it as Bryant will be with Nash, Hill and Bell to trying to hold off the youth. The Thunder and Heat with their young, explosive players represent the immovable object.

    The Lakers with their skill, experience, hunger to win one, and resolve of major players from two rival teams getting to together to do so are the irresistible force.

    For goodness sake, Nash was only traded to the Lakers to be closer to his children. I'm starting to wonder if he thought of all this before all this happened.

    The media and fans will be all over it with the refs not being able to help themselves at times. Everyone will especially want to see Nash and Hill get one as they are two of the classiest to ever lace 'em up.

    The ratings will be through the roof and the will of the people will be with the Lakers.  


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    It's amazing what one player can do for the Lakers offensive weaknesses, but Nash is a two-time MVP for a reason. Nash and his two buddies coming to Los Angeles just about take care of all the Lakers' weaknesses. 

    We'll see what the Lakers do with Peace but if he ends up staying, either he or Hill can come off the bench. Put that with Bell and a hopefully re-signed Jordan Hill, and the bench is complete.

    The bench may be most important because in the playoffs, the Thunder bench outscored the Lakers bench by a total of 87 points in the series. The Thunder only won the series by a total of 47 points, meaning the Lakers starters won the series by 40 points and that was with a horrible Sessions, not Nash.

    If the team gets put together like this and stays healthy, it's a wrap and Nash made this happen. That's because everyone now knows their going to get their touches as Nash is a straw that stirs up all drink ingredients.

    Shaquille O'Neal might have played his whole career with Bryant had Nash been there.

    Who knows how many banners the Lakers would have hung up?

    Of course, I'm not sure what the Lakers bring in with Nash, but I believe what I put together is possible. And from what I've heard and read, they'll at at least do something close to that to hang up banner No. 17! 

    Get ready, Lakers fans!