Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers have a ton of work to do before they can even think about a deep playoff run. The Oklahoma City Thunder, the cross-hall Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs have all established themselves as contenders in the Western Conference, with a slew of quality hopefuls following close behind.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way through injuries, coaching changes and the tremendous pressure that comes with outsized expectations for the NBA's glamour franchise.
But, for one day at least, the Lakers looked like the team everyone thought they'd be, thanks in no small part to Steve Nash. In just his second game back from a nerve injury in his left leg, the two-time MVP tallied 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in 38 minutes to propel the Purple and Gold to a 100-94 win over the visiting New York Knicks.
It was vintage Nash from start to finish. There were pick-and-rolls with Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, pick-and-pops with Pau Gasol, crisp passes to L.A.'s role players and timely jumpers of his own sprinkled throughout. Nash ran the half-court offense to a tee and made basketball easy and fun for everyone.
On his side, anyway.
He brought a semblance of calm and control to the Lakers in crunch time, effectively replacing the frantic desperation of Kobe-centric "Hero Ball." Finally, the Lakers looked and played like something more than the sum of their impressive parts. There was energy, intensity, passion and teamwork, where once there had only been a malaise of disappointment and individual ambition.
Nash might not have been responsible for all of it, but he certainly deserves the lion's share of the credit for getting the Lakers to .500 for the first time all season, against a quality opponent, no less.