Is Steve Nash a Square Peg in Phil Jackson's Triangle Offense?
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has left no doubt as to who he feels should be the next coach of the Lakers, and according to ESPN, the franchise and former coach Phil Jackson have begun preliminary discussions and a decision is expected by Monday.
All signs point to a return to Los Angeles for Jackson and his triangle offense, and while Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol may be ecstatic about the prospects of Jackson's return, I'm not sure what it means for point guard Steve Nash.
Jackson's free-flowing offense de-emphasizes the need for an elite point guard, but more importantly, unless Jackson makes some serious adjustments, it also mutes Nash's greatest ability.
The triangle is more of a concept or idea than a set offense, and it's most effective when the ball is in constant motion and players are screening and cutting towards the basket.
Nash may be the greatest pick-and-roll point guard to ever grace a basketball court, but establishing the pick-and-roll takes time, and in the case of the Lakers, it means the offense can get stagnant.
Gary Payton was the last elite point guard to wear a Lakers uniform, and it would be an understatement to say that he despised the triangle offense. The triangle often prevented Payton from utilizing his post-up ability, so in order to avoid getting into the set, Payton pushed the ball at every opportunity.
Payton's strategy worked through much of the 2003-04 regular season, but his unwillingness to learn the intricacies of the offense meant Payton was virtually useless to the Lakers in the postseason when the pace of the game dramatically decreased.
It's no secret that Nash's career has been mostly built on regular-season success, but what happens when he is forced to regulate the tempo and maximize each possession in the playoffs?
I have my doubts as to whether Nash can relinquish primary ball-handling responsibilities and become a piece of the moving whole, but I'm also sure Jackson has considered this potential dilemma and has ideas on how to make it work if he chooses to accept the Lakers' offer.
Bryant and Gasol could certainly help Nash transition, and Howard should fit right in when you consider the success of Gasol and Shaquille O'Neal in seasons past.
Jackson will have to find a way to maximize Nash's court vision and ability in the open floor rather than see it go to waste, which means that he may have to tweak his approach a little in order for the Lakers to be as efficient as possible.
If Jackson returns to the sideline, he will likely be in command of one of the most talented rosters of his career, but leading this Lakers team back to the NBA Finals would probably also qualify as one of the greatest coaching jobs of his career as well.
The pieces are all there for Jackson and the Lakers to reverse the current course of their season and begin to fulfill the promise that most observers have expected, but that depends on Nash's ability to learn and master his second new offense in a couple of months.
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