Just like that, the Los Angeles Lakers are relevant again.
As quickly as you can say "Steve Nash," the Lakers have gone from being a collection of misguided, uninspiring playoff also-rans to a legitimate contender for a world championship.
Wednesday's news (via Marc Stein of ESPN) that future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash would be joining Kobe Bryant in the Lakers' backcourt this fall reverberated through the City of Angels, giving new meaning to a Fourth of July celebration.
The sign and trade scenario that will bring Nash to L.A. from the rival Phoenix Suns was as unexpected as one could imagine. In a recent radio interview on ESPN New York, Nash himself sounded as if he never would play for a team like the Lakers.
"The truth is I'm a bit old school," Nash said in the June 25 interview with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco (h/t Stein). "For me, it would be hard to put on a Lakers jersey. That's just the way it is. You play against them so many times in the playoffs, and I just use them as an example, and I have the utmost respect for them and their organization."
With all the recent talk of Dwight Howard possibly being traded to L.A. for Andrew Bynum, the real underlying need for the Lakers has been at the point guard position. We may still see a trade involving either Pau Gasol or Bynum, but something tells me those possibilities have dramatically decreased with this wildly unexpected transaction.
You really have to tip your hat to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for continuing to pursue a trade for the free-agent Nash when all signs and rumors had the 16-year veteran headed out of Arizona for either Toronto, New York or Dallas.
Nash will sign a three-year deal worth about $27 million to play for the Lakers, who can use their Lamar Odom trade exception of $8.9 million plus a package of first and second-round draft picks over the next few seasons to make the deal work. Nash, who at 38 has never won a title, was apparently won over by the idea of playing with Bryant, Gasol and Bynum.
In Nash, the Lakers now have one of the all-time greatest point guards in NBA history. He instantly becomes the coach on the court for L.A. and will quarterback an offense that often seemed in disarray last season.
Lakers head coach Mike Brown will no longer have to worry about finding a point guard who can direct an offense—he has one of the best to ever play the game. An unselfish perfectionist who has led the league for most assists in a season the last three years, Nash will spread the floor with deft passing skills and off the charts basketball IQ.
Last season the Lakers' point guards averaged 7.7 points and 4.3 assists per game, second to last in the league. On the other hand, Phoenix thrived with Nash, averaging 103.1 points per 48 minutes as a team when he was on the court and just 90.6 when he wasn't.
Nash averaged 10.7 assists and 12.5 points per game last season with the Suns. For his career, the two-time NBA MVP averages 8.6 dimes and 14.5 points. His season assist totals have been in double figures seven times, all of those coming in the past eight seasons.
A possible bonus to Nash joining the Lakers is that he may convince former Suns teammate Grant Hill to join him in L.A. And while the former Duke star turns 40 in October, Hill can still play at a pretty high level and would add significant leadership and skills to an anemic Lakers bench. Hill averaged 10.2 points in 28.1 minutes last season and is a career 48 percent shooter.
Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant in the same backcourt—it seems odd to write such a sentence. The Lakers got the player they really needed and didn't have to give up any of their core players to get him.
Getting Nash to come to L.A. definitely qualifies as management "hitting a home run".
Something tells me they're not done yet.
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