Why the Los Angeles Lakers Need to Let Steve Nash Be Steve Nash
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown has never been confused for an offensive mastermind.
A fine assistant coach who learned the principles of defense under Gregg Popovich while with the San Antonio Spurs, Brown has largely relied on the "LeBron and Kobe isolation offense" during his time as a head coach.
While this sort of system has usually been good for 50 regular-season wins and a mini playoff run, Brown has never led a team to an NBA championship.
This time, he may have hit a new low.
Now attempting to run a Princeton-style offense with the Lakers, Brown is single-handedly killing the playmaking abilities of new point guard Steve Nash.
While Nash has only played a game-and-a-half in L.A. due to a fractured fibula, it's clear the offense is not suited to the former MVP's abilities.
In an opening-night loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Nash played 34 minutes but only registered seven points and four assists. The Lakers as a team looked flat, losing by a final score of 99-91.
In Nash's second game, he had only two points and four assists in a 116-106 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers before leaving with an injury.
So why exactly are Nash and the Princeton offense the Lakers currently run a bad fit?
There are a couple of reasons. First is an understanding of the Princeton offense. In this offense, players are constantly moving, trying to create an open shot with a high number of passes. Positions are less defined and it usually takes a large portion of the shot clock to create the perfect shooting opportunity. This leads to less overall possessions with the ball per game due to the amount of time spent on each possession.
For those who followed Steve Nash and the Mike D'Antoni offense in Phoenix, the two couldn't be any more different.
With the Suns, they relied heavily on Nash's playmaking abilities in pick-and-roll sets that often only needed one key pass.
By increasing the ball movement and number of passes, the Lakers are taking the ball out of Nash's hands where it needs to be.
Consider this: In four games thus far this season, the Lakers are averaging 73.5 field-goal attempts per game—only 17th in the league.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, L.A.'s 91.7 possessions per 48 minutes is ranked 23rd in the NBA. This is a truly turtle speed compared to what Nash is used to.
During his time with the Suns, their pace of play rankings went as follows:
|2004-05||1st of 30|
|2005-06||1st of 30|
|2006-07||3rd of 30|
|2007-08||4th of 30|
|2008-09||4th of 30|
|2009-10||4th of 30|
|2010-11||7th of 30|
|2011-12||8th of 30|
During the time Nash had a dominant big man to pass to in pick-and-roll situations with Amar'e Stoudemire, the Suns finished in the top four in total offensive possessions every year.
It just so happens the Lakers have a few such big men around to utilize.
Dwight Howard can attack the hoop even better than Amar'e ever could and Pau Gasol has shown the ability to play the pick-and-pop with Nash with his outside shooting abilities.
Speeding up the pace and keeping the ball in Nash's hands would not only allow Nash to flourish, but the entire Lakers offense as well.
The Princeton offense and Nash aren't a good fit and should be done away with as soon as Nash returns to action.
Mike Brown has a chance prove that he can orchestrate a successful offense just by letting Nash do what he does best.
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