The Los Angeles Lakers' star-studded roster was supposed to compete for an NBA championship, but the franchise is skating on thinner ice each day that newly acquired point guard Steve Nash is not in the lineup.
Nash's return is vital to the Lakers picking up on the offensive scheme that new head coach Mike D'Antoni is installing. Without Nash, the Lakers can't salvage the 2012-13 season—and concerns about whether he will return to the court are heightening.
ESPN Los Angeles reporter Ramona Shelburne logged a wide-ranging summation of all the turbulence going on in LA, and noted particularly discouraging talk around the league about the 38-year-old Nash:
When people talk about Nash's return, every estimate begins with an "at least" and people around the league whisper that one more setback could cost Nash the rest of the season. For weeks, D'Antoni has been saying all this will make sense once Nash comes back.
...Twice now he has hinted that Nash might return, only to admit later that he was just hoping it might be so.
"I hate it," D'Antoni said after the loss in Cleveland. "I'm down. Right now we're all screwed up."
What has been keeping Nash down is a fracture to his left fibula suffered in the second game of the season. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! reports that Nash's slow return isn't due to the bone break, but rather to nerve irritation. The setback occurred during his rehabilitation, and causes Nash pain whenever he puts pressure on the leg.
Even though the bone has healed well, Nash is still not cleared to practice and is likely to return at the end of the month, according to Spears' sources.
After another loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday night—D'Antoni's most recent coaching stint outside of LA—the Lakers are reeling on a four-game losing streak, desperately searching for answers without their floor general.
Despite the best efforts of Kobe Bryant—who leads the NBA in scoring—LA sits at 9-14, including 6-9 since D'Antoni took the reins.
Steve Blake has also missed extended time due to an abdominal injury that required surgery, leaving the Lakers with only Chris Duhon and Darius Morris at point guard. Duhon played for the D'Antoni on the Knicks, but isn't exactly the offensive catalyst the Lakers had in mind to lead the charge this year.
Nash's return would not only help indoctrinate his teammates on the ways of the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense, but it would also deflect attention from other issues.
Nash's fellow new stud acquisition Dwight Howard is taking some heat for the team's trials and tribulations, as he is still somewhere around 80 to 85 percent healthy from offseason back surgery.
Clearly, Howard needs help in the paint, and it starts with Pau Gasol.
The longtime Laker power forward, though, is riding the pine himself due to sore knees, but before then couldn't find his groove within D'Antoni's system. Gasol is a post-up player, but couldn't establish that in the fast-paced offense.
The big man was a big reason Nash came to LA in the first place—as Ric Bucher pointed out not long ago—because Nash felt they would complement each other extremely well.
But if the whispers grow louder about another Nash setback keeping him out for the entire year, that development will never materialize. Thus, the Lakers will continue to be in disarray barring aggressive action from GM Mitch Kupchak, and will fall shockingly short of their championship expectations.
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