Right now, everyone on the Lakers is feeling pressure. From the coaches to every single player—whether a superstar to the last man on the bench—the feeling of needing to get the season on track is strong.
Beyond the pressure to perform in the present, the long term goals also weigh heavy. This team was put together to win a championship and do it quickly. That expectation brings with it a burden that every player carries.
Some players carry it more than others, however. And on this Lakers team, there's a fair argument to be made that the two superstar newcomers are the ones likely to feel that pressure most. After all, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have their hardware. Sure, they want to taste that glory again but Steve Nash and Dwight Howard just want to taste it, period.
When drilling deeper, then, one has to question who feels more pressure between Nash and Howard for this Lakers team. And while Howard is the better player and expectations for him as an individual may be higher, it's likely Nash who feels the pressure most.
We must remember that Nash, like Kobe, is in his 17th campaign as a pro. With so much mileage on his body and his career nearly at its expiration date, there is not much time left for him to win the ultimate team prize. Knowing this Lakers team offers his best last hope, surely weighs on him in a different way than a dominant big man in his prime like Howard.
Plus, Nash has achieved individual glory in the form of multiple all-star selections and being named league MVP twice. But for all his successes, he's never reached the championship round. Whether with the Mavericks or the Suns, his teams were always cut down before the Finals.
Now, though, he's on a team that not only has a great shot to win but is a team that many think should win.
Besides the circumstances of his career, there's also the role that Nash plays on this specific team. For all the responsibility that Howard and Kobe feel as the team's best players, it's actually Nash that may carry the heaviest burden due to his role as point guard.
Sure, Kobe and Howard will be expected to put up numbers and impact the game statistically but it will be Nash that will be expected to help maximize that production through his decision making. Nash will be the player that organizes the Lakers' offense. He'll be the one with the ball in his hands to start nearly every possession and will decide how a play unfolds from its initial actions.
If Nash wants to get Howard a touch in the post, he can. If he wants to try and get Kobe the ball in a position where he's most threatening to a defense, he can do that as well. If he thinks his own number should be called, he can go in that direction. But that burden, at least to at the beginning of every possession will mostly fall on his shoulders.
In a post game scrum (courtesy of Lakers.com), Nash spoke about the burden he carries as the chief decision maker for this team:
Maybe I need to assert myself more in pick-and-roll situations. But (you're right), I'm caught trying to get the ball moving and get us into the Princeton and get us into different sets and opportunities.
Howard, for all his responsibility as an integral member of the offense and an anchor on defense simply doesn't face this type of decision making on a play-to-play basis. With this type of role, Nash is in a position where he has a special type of pressure on him to not only perform as an individual playmaker but as the set up man for his entire team.
Over the course of the season, both Howard and Nash will need to stand up to the burdens they carry and perform at their best for the Lakers to achieve what they want to as a group. But if looking at career circumstances and the role they play within the structure of this team, it's Nash who faces the most pressure.