Let me preface everything I'm about to write with the following disclaimer:
I love Steve Nash. He is a great player and a greater man. My main complaint about most museums is that they don't have enough Steve Nash exhibits. I write weekly letters to the Hall of Fame to ask why they haven't started building him an entire wing. If asked to choose between the powers of Superman and Steve Nash, I would answer by saying, "What's the difference?"
With that said, we can move on to discussing the news that Nash is now a Los Angeles Laker.
Unfortunately for all parties involved—Nash, the Lakers and my heart—there's no way this arrangement is going to work. As much as it pains me to question anything Nash does, I have to say that he simply doesn't fit on the Lakers.
The reasons why Nash and the Lakers are a poor match run the gamut from practical to psychological.
From a practical perspective, Nash's skills do not mesh well with the rest of his new Lakers teammates. Since abandoning the triangle when Phil Jackson retired, the Lakers' offense has devolved into post ups and isolation plays. The crisp passing and off-ball movement that marked teams coached by the Zen Master (and Tex Winter, the triangle offense guru who accompanied Jackson in Chicago and L.A.) are long gone.
Nash excels in a free-wheeling offense where shots come fast and furious. He was never more effective as a player than in Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" system. Basically, Nash is best when he's surrounded by athletes and three-point shooters. Give him the ball with guys like that around him, and he can run pick-and-rolls or penetrate and create open three-point shots all day long.
The Lakers, you may have noticed, have neither athletes nor three-point shooters. Those two critical absences alone decrease the efficacy of a Nash-run offense.
But there's more.
We also know that Nash needs the ball in his hands all the time in order to be effective. It's a sound offensive strategy because Nash is always the most efficient player and the best decision-maker on the floor. Unfortunately, Nash simply can't do Nash things with Kobe Bryant around. Kobe has crafted a Hall of Fame career out of isolation sets and post-ups. And if all a Lakers point guard does is throw the ball to Kobe and get out of the way, what's the point of having the Lakers point guard be Steve Nash?
Sure, Nash can nail open threes with his eyes closed, but relegating him to catch-and-shoot duties doesn't avail the Lakers of all of Nash's offensive brilliance. And when you don't completely maximize Nash's offensive plusses, his defensive minuses make him a much less effective player overall.
So that's the practical explanation for why Nash isn't a fit for the Lakers—the way they play simply doesn't utilize the things Nash is best at. But the psychological component is interesting, too.
Kobe Bryant has played one way for his entire career. He's always viewed himself as an alpha dog, and except for the years when he butted heads with Shaq, nobody's ever challenged him. By no means is Nash a difficult player or person to get along with, but if the Lakers figure out how to utilize Nash correctly, it will necessarily mean that Kobe is going to have to change the way he plays.
I don't think Kobe can do that.
It's awfully difficult to picture Bryant buying into an offensive system in which he's asked to come off screens, run the lane and move the ball. Kobe likes to have the ball in his hands as much as any player in the league. Does anyone really think he's suddenly going to turn into Shawn Marion, circa 2004? Of course not.
Psychologically, Kobe won't be able to deal with taking a back seat to Nash, even if that's the only way for the Lakers to get their money's worth out of their new point guard.
I wish Steve Nash all the best in his new locale, but I'm afraid this just isn't going to work out.
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