Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo are two of the league’s best distributing point guards. While Rondo is back for another year with the Boston Celtics, Nash is learning a new system in Los Angeles with the Lakers on a quest for his first championship ring. But who in the early stages of the 2012-13 season has proven more valuable to his team? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Nash.
Each of these point guards’ respective teams started the season with two straight losses (three straight for the Lakers). In the first game of the 2012-13 season, Rondo’s Celtics played the mighty, defending-champion Miami Heat, while Nash’s Lakers played the short-handed Dallas Mavericks. Although both teams’ efforts ended with a loss on Oct. 30, Rondo outplayed Nash in every aspect.
Rondo finished with 20 points (on 9-of-14 shooting), 13 assists and seven rebounds. Nash, on the other hand, scored seven points while adding just four assists and two rebounds. Additionally, Rondo played 44 minutes compared to Nash’s 34 minutes (no surprise that the younger Rondo is more durable).
Although the performance from Rondo was more of the same, Nash looked completely out of his element in his first regular season game as a Laker. The 38-year-old point guard appeared absolutely lost in the Lakers’ offense and was frequently giving up the ball in half-court sets.
During the TNT postgame broadcast Charles Barkley said, “The best thing Steve Nash does is push the ball.” Well, he had incredibly limited opportunities to do just that on Tuesday night. The Lakers finished with a paltry seven fast-break points against the Mavericks (not exactly the quickest team in the league with Elton Brand and Eddy Curry logging minutes). That output is the opposite style of basketball Nash is used to playing.
In fact, while watching the game, I was reminded of Terry Porter’s anemic half-court offense during his time with the Phoenix Suns. Nash was never comfortable in Porter’s offense, which called for numerous post-up plays to Shaquille O’Neal.
I wasn’t the only one to make this comparison, though. Suns’ beat writer Paul Coro said via Twitter, “Even Terry Porter thinks this Lakers offense isn’t putting the ball in Nash’s hands enough.” I could not agree more.
Even more disconcerting, Steve Blake (Nash’s backup) recorded six assists in just 14 minutes played during the season opener. That’s two more assists in 20 fewer minutes than Nash had.
In the Lakers' next game, against the Portland Trail Blazers, Nash played just 16 minutes before exiting the game due to a left leg injury he sustained while defending rookie Damian Lillard.
Can someone explain why Nash is bothering to play full-court-press defense against Lillard in the first place? Seems like a useless way to get hurt to begin with. But that aside, Nash was a non-factor in the Lakers’ second loss of the season. He had just four assists and only two points before the injury.
In addition, the injury to his left leg kept him out of Friday night's contest against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the Celtics’ second game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks (their second loss on the season as well), Rondo didn’t play a stellar game, but was solid nonetheless.
The Celtics’ point guard scored 14 points on 50 percent shooting, added 11 assists and three steals while turning the ball over just twice. A lackluster effort and all-around game from Boston led to a loss to an inferior Bucks squad.
Neither point guard has led his team to a win in the early going, nor has either floor general poured in the stats. With that said, Nash has been an afterthought in the Lakers offense. He doesn’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much as he should, he hasn’t logged meaningful minutes (sometimes due to injury) and the Lakers offense has struggled as a result.
While Rondo is in a familiar system with familiar teammates, Nash is learning on the fly. It's going to be a process for the Lakers' offense to come together and perform with a horde of superstars, but they better hope it gets turned around soon.