Breaking Down How L.A. Lakers Can Successfully Fill the Steve Nash Void
Steve Nash has played poorly, but the Los Angeles Lakers still need him.
To be more specific, they need the Nash they thought they acquired, the one they had hoped would lead them to an NBA title.
But for now, they can't have him.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, the Lakers' medical staff has Nash missing between seven to 10 days.
Latest info from Lakers' medical staff has Steve Nash missing about 7-10 days, according to a person briefed on the point guard's prognosis.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) November 5, 2012
That's not horrible, right? A week, week and a half tops and he'll be good to go. Los Angeles can proceed as planned.
Except it's not that easy.
Previously, Mike Bresnehan of the Los Angeles Times reported that Nash could, in fact, miss up to four weeks, courtesy of the small fracture in his left leg.
Steve Nash could miss up to four weeks with the small fracture in his left leg, a Lakers source said. #BadLakerNews— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 5, 2012
Now how's that for a twist?
Whether or not Berger's report trumps Bresnehan's is irrelevant. In either case, the Lakers must be prepared to extensively fill the void left by Nash.
Is that even possible?
Yes. It won't be easy, but it can be done.
You see the Lakers won't be replacing the 4.5 points and four assists per game Nash put up prior to his injury, they'll be attempting to replace his potential, attempting to replace the impact he was supposed to have.
Difficult? Yes, but again, it's possible.
Well, Los Angeles could stick to the Princeton offense. Such an offensive blueprint doesn't call for a talented ball-handler or precise passer, just a willing body who is also able to dump the ball off down low.
But that's not enough.
Let's not forget the Lakers need to be able to insert Nash back into a lineup, back into an offensive scheme he is comfortable in. As his stats tell us, though, that's clearly not the Princeton offense.
So what is Los Angeles to do?
Put the ball in the hands of its next best playmaker, which also means taking it out of Steve Blake's hands.
For the Lakers to both fill the void Nash himself has yet to fill while also running an offense that he will be comfortable directing upon his return, they must emphasize unstructured ball-movement.
They must put the ball in the hands of Kobe Bryant.
Surprised? I didn't think so. But this goes beyond Bryant's penchant for self-imposed offense and into his value as a playmaker, as a distributor.
Kobe is, in fact, a talented passer—there are simply just times when he chooses not to do it very often.
When he does pass, though, the Lakers are near unstoppable.
Last year, playing for a team much less talented than the one he is on now, Bryant dished out five or more assists 32 times, including the postseason. Los Angeles' record during that span was a dominant 22-10.
The team has also won the only game in which he has dished out five or more assists this season as well.
Which makes putting the ball in Bryant's hands the smart play here.
He can jump-start the offense with his dribble penetration, with his ability to run the pick-and-roll with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
He can also ensure the Lakers do not become too acclimated to playing without a competent floor general.
They are already visibly out of sync with Nash on the floor, and that's with them attempting to balance the Princeton offense with Nash's natural-born instincts; in the two games the point guard has appeared in, Los Angeles averaged 19 turnovers.
With Nash out, though, the Lakers could easily place even more of an emphasis on the their structured offensive sets. The team could simply look -0.2 it posted with Blake on the court last season and take the "no point guard, no problem" approach, thereby eliminating the current void.
What's the best way for the Lakers to fill the void left by Steve Nash?
In doing so, though, Los Angeles would only be creating another one. Nash is going to return eventually and when he does, he will be left without a significant role if the Lakers are too committed to the Princeton offense.
And Nash didn't come—nor did the Lakers bring him—to Los Angeles to play second-fiddle to an overly structured offensive system.
Someone needs to run the offense—legitimately run the offense—to give the Lakers the best opportunity to not only become a dominant entity, but adequately warm the seat of and help the team adapt to the role Nash was brought in to play.
The one that suits Purple and Gold best.
The one Nash himself has yet to assume.
And yeah, the one Bryant needs to take hold of until he is able to.
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