The Los Angeles Lakers and their Princeton office finally have a win, and it was all done without high-profile free-agent signee Steve Nash, who is out at least a week with a small fracture in his leg.
In their win against the Detroit Pistons on November 4, the Lakers' offense looked cohesive and dangerous en route to a 108-79 victory as Dwight Howard led the way in true Princeton offense style, scoring 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Simply put, the team's offense looked as dangerous as it could potentially be without Nash and one can't help but wonder: is he right for the system? Granted, the Lakers beat the winless Pistons, which isn't anything to write home about, but the fact that it was such a blowout is very telling.
Look at it this way: Nash is one of the greatest players in NBA history, but his style of play just doesn't match the Princeton offense that Mike Brown has chosen to employ. For those unaware, the system calls for constant ball movement and basically makes every position except center irrelevant, looking to create an eventual mismatch before a shot is taken.
In reality, Nash is much better suited for a run-and-gun offense like the one he ran during his recent stint with the Phoenix Suns. That system allowed him have more freedom with the ball, utilize his freakishly accurate shooting as much as possible and set his own plays rather than be married to a set of scenarios created by his coach.
Phoenix's run-and-gun system, which Nash joined in 2004 and was a part of up until this past season, led to the future Hall of Famer averaging 16.3 points and 10.9 assists while shooting an incredible 51 percent from the field and 44 percent from long range.
In two games with the Lakers, he's only averaged 4.5 points and four assists on 33 percent shooting, and it's not because being 38 years old has suddenly caught up with him.
The sad truth is that while he may be a phenomenal leader with a great skill set, Nash just isn't the right man for a Princeton offense, and it took him being injured for the Lakers to realize that. Steve Blake has stepped in as starting point guard in Nash's absence, and his performance against Detroit says it all.
The former Maryland Terp only scored six points in 30 minutes, but also dished out six assists while pulling down five rebounds and accumulating five steals. The regular three-point threat did a great job working the offense and kept the ball moving constantly. The fact that the usually disappointing Metta World Peace finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting says it all.
On top of that, while Nash drives the lane well, his skinny build at 6'3", 178 pounds makes one hold one's breath whenever he goes for a layup and/or gets fouled hard. Blake is five pounds lighter and almost all of his production comes from his long-range shooting, but he has a more muscular build and can thus get tossed around a bit more.
Will the Lakers perform better without Steve Nash?
That being said, Nash's injury may be the best thing to happen to the Lakers thus far this season. In their game against the Pistons, the offense finally looked like it was accomplishing something and it was all thanks to having a point guard better suited to the constantly moving offense.
Furthermore, this could actually be a blessing in disguise for Nash as he can use his time on the bench to observe what his teammates are doing to bring home some victories. Sure, the Princeton offense limits his creativity and doesn't allow him to set plays the way he's used to, but he's not in a run-and-gun system anymore and basketball is a game of adaptation.
Just how the Lakers will adapt to the Princeton offense and playing the game without Nash, so will he in learning more about the offense while recovering from his injury.