Why Steve Nash Is Under More Pressure Than Dwight Howard for 2012-13 L.A. Lakers

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 25, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Spurs defeated the Suns 110-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers fans will be looking to Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to return the franchise to the NBA Finals and give cause for another one of those parades. That much goes without saying.

And while those fans may expect a bit more out of Howard given that he's in his prime and regarded as the game's best center, there will ultimately be even more pressure on Nash's shoulders.

Though his contract runs for three seasons, Nash will turn 39 before the trade deadline. Yes, he's in great shape. And yes, he still played at an incredibly high level last season. But you just can't be especially optimistic about a guy's durability at this stage of his career.

Maybe nothing will come of the back problems that occasionally nagged him last season, but there are any number of unforeseen issues that could emerge over the next three years, due to ordinary wear and tear if nothing else.

You don't have to be betting against Nash to acknowledge these kinds of risks.

It would be surprising if he isn't doing the same.

Whereas Dwight Howard could spend the next decade hunting rings with the Lakers, Nash will be lucky to do so for the remainder of his contract. Even if he can play out that contract, there's no telling how effective he'll remain as it nears its end. 

A gradually closing window of opportunity isn't the only thing weighing on Nash.

He'll also be charged with running an offense that needs to catch up with prolific scoring teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets. The Western Conference is top-heavy with clubs that can score upwards of 100 points without blinking.

The Lakers are hoping Nash's legendary ability to make his teammates better will translate into a more well-rounded offensive attack, replete with a revitalized pick-and-roll game and opportunities for an improved corps of perimeter shooters.

Those expectations aside, Nash will also be running a Princeton offense that the Lakers aren't entirely used to.

While some will make the transition fairly easily, the onus to communicate and keep things running smoothly will fall on the floor general.

Of course, a number of other factors will play into how fans view Nash's work and how Nash views it himself. Those fans should be pretty forgiving, even if they had to give up a few draft picks in exchange for Nash's services.

After watching the likes of Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions run the point, Nash will seemingly do no wrong in their eyes.

In Nash's eyes, coming to Los Angeles was less straightforward. It required him to leave the Phoenix Suns, a decision whose time had come, but a decision that couldn't have been easy even so.

It also required him to pass on an opportunity to play for the Toronto Raptors, returning to his home country in a fitting twilight to his career.

Even if preferring L.A. were easy to rationalize in the end, it didn't come without tradeoffs. If things hit a rough patch in Los Angeles, those tradeoffs could loom ever larger.

Though there's reason to believe Nash will endure some added pressure, there's far less reason to believe it will make any difference. This is a professional who's been around the block and understands what it takes to win in the playoffs.

If anyone can handle a little extra stress, it's Steve Nash.