Why Lakers Fans Should Worry About Steve Nash Injury
Longtime Los Angeles Lakers fans did not simply feel immediate disappointment at Steve Nash’s injury on October 31.
Loyal fans of the purple and gold with any capacity for recollection felt a visceral reaction.
As you well know, Nash incurred a leg injury amidst a wretched performance by his team during the second game of the current NBA season. With the veteran point guard out for an indefinite period of time, the ensuing scenario for fans and management alike should seem relatively familiar.
Flashback to 2003
Flashback to the summer of 2003. Following a 110-82 drubbing at home at the hands of the bitter rival San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals, Lakers management tried desperately to keep their dynasty thriving. After all, LA was home to three consecutive Larry O’Brien trophies from 2000-02.
With the recruiting powers of the then-dominant alpha male Shaquille O’Neal, two of the greatest basketball players of all time were influenced to join the Los Angeles roster. In part, their decisions were made because of personal quests to capture the one accolade that had evaded them both their entire careers: a championship.
After all, what better opportunity would Gary Payton and Karl Malone have at winning a championship than with Shaq, a youthful Kobe Bryant, a seasoned bench and one of the most successful coaches in league history in Phil Jackson?
For that matter, what other opportunities would a 35-yeard old Glove and 40-year old Mailman have at all?
The answer for them seemed to be a no-brainer.
With four players who were locks as Naismith Hall of Famers, not only did a championship appear imminent, but there were rumblings that this squad could match the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ win total (72 wins).
December 12, 2003
December 12, 2003, at the Staples Center. The Phoenix Suns are in town.
Malone throws down an emphatic dunk two minutes into the game. No more than two minutes later, an insanely clumsy Scott Williams challenges a Malone jump shot only to fall into the Mailman during his ascent.
The oversized frame of Williams lands squarely on Malone’s right knee, ruining what was left of his career and, looking back, the Lakers’ chances at sustaining their dynasty.
That by no means is an exaggeration, considering how early in the season the injury occurred and that it kept the big power forward out of 39 games in 2003-04.
Prior to that injury, Malone played in 1,459 out of a possible 1,470 games throughout the 19 seasons of his professional career.
Those 39 games were exactly what he needed to gel with his teammates.
Malone hadn't played for a team other than the Utah Jazz in his previous 15 seasons. He played for one coach, one offensive system and, for the most part, one point guard whose magnificent distributing skills and mastery over the pick-and-roll made their duo one of the most indomitable forces in the game (for those of you living in Canada, that was John Stockton).
Maintaining Elite Status
Since the Lakers were embarrassed by the Detroit Pistons in a championship series that lasted just five games, nearly a decade has passed.
Bryant and the Lakers secured two more championships sans Shaq, reaching the finals a third time. But an aging roster and rising young talent thwarted the Lakers' hopes for an 18th banner in these last two seasons.
This forced Jim and Jerry Buss to make blockbuster moves the last four months to give the Black Mamba another opportunity at a sixth ring and allow the franchise to begin preparing for life without him.
Enter Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. For the second time in the last decade, Tinsel Town again boasts four players in its starting lineup who are imminent Hall of Famers.
And once again, an aging veteran offseason acquisition and two-time Most Valuable Player goes out indefinitely with injury.
Nash’s Health = Lakers Hopes
Though Nash struggled with injuries early in his career, the 16-year point guard averaged 78 games per regular season for 10 years prior to last season when a groin injury kept him from playing in 20 games.
Nash spent his offseason becoming acclimated with Mike Brown and the Princeton offense he implemented. In limited action, it is clear that this core group of players has a lot of adjusting to do.
Currently, their only option is to do so without one main cog.
Mainly, offensive adjustments need to be made in regards to who maintains the majority of the ball-handling duties.
Whether or not fans agree with the hiring of new head coach Mike D'Antoni over the Zen Master, it may be the best scenario for a Lakers team that is facing growing pains. At least Nash has the opportunity to reenter the lineup under a coach and within a system for which he has played and with which he is familiar.
Still, without Nash’s longtime training staff working magic for him as it did in Phoenix, it is unclear how long he will need to heal. The latest reports indicated that Nash would be out of action until at least this week.
With that week-long period over, there is no further indication as to how much longer he will be out.
A former Sun delivered a crushing blow to the Mailman in 2003. Fans should be worried that a bright season outlook will dim the fate of another former Sun.
If history is any indication, the uncertainty surrounding Nash's injury—including how long it will keep him sidelined—has the potential to thwart the Lakers' championship aspirations.
At least for this season.