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Is Steve Nash Still a Superstar, or the L.A. Lakers' Latest Flop?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder posts Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2013

While the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers organization has been publicly ripped to shreds for the team's disastrous 23-27 start, 39-year-old Steve Nash has eluded the collective fingers of a basketball world desperately seeking someone to blame for this miss.

A small fracture in his left leg earned him a free pass from the team's brutal performance over the year's opening two months, but how he's skirted free of criticism for the Lakers' 11-15 record with him in the lineup defies logic.

At this stage in his career, he's nothing more than a spot-up shooter. While you can't argue about his success in that role (52.0 field-goal percentage), there's no denying the fact that's not exactly what the franchise envisioned when they parted with four draft picks (two in the first round, two in the second) to pry him from the Phoenix Suns.

Now, imagine if the Lakers had paid half that price to bring fellow shooters Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison to Tinseltown. Forget about any defenses being made in the court of public opinion; that would've been grounds for an immediate death sentence.

But as long as Nash continues to struggle finding offensive chances out of the pick-and-roll, he and the two aforementioned marksmen are far more similar than any Lakers front office member would care to admit.

While Nash was busy compiling two debatable MVP awards in 2004 and 2005 (awards former teammate Shaquille O'Neal felt were heisted, via Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports), he built his campaign on the strength of his pick-and-roll production.

 

He penetrated deeper and under more control than any of his peers. And while the ultimate goal was finding an open teammate off of those drives, the threat of scoring was constant.

So why don't those same opportunities in the same offensive system no longer produce the same results? An overall lack of cohesion on the roster holds some of the blame, but that threat of him as a scorer has long been abandoned (he's averaging 11.8 points per game, his lowest point total since the 1999-2000 season).

Defenses can key on the roller and hold their attention on the secondary long-range threats. He's never been the fleetest of foot, but he's noticeably slower coming off of those screens.

And where does the accountability for that lack of synergy between the players start? Coach Mike D'Antoni has certainly tarnished his coaching reputation throughout the season, but isn't the point guard supposed to be the coach on the court, the floor general keeping his troops in line?

Granted, he's a first year Laker. But he's also an established, decorated veteran whose voice should ring through any locker room, no matter how dysfunctional it may be.

He has yet to find a way to make the franchise-crumbling Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard relationship even workable. He's seemingly yet to even work himself into the conversation of leadership.

 

Whether or not Bryant has allowed him to do so is certainly a question, but where have we seen signs of Nash trying to fight for his voice?

And while he was hardly the only one to pile on Howard for not fighting through his shoulder pain, the words rang hollow. He appeared merely to be following Bryant's lead, as if it were just in his best interest to keep Bryant in his corner. Not to mention Nash's own escape of those same criticisms when that day-to-day leg fracture wound up a nearly two-month stint on the sideline.

And this has yet to even touch on the defensive end of the floor, where Nash has been a liability for his entire career.

In case you've missed the last five seasons, there's been an evolution at the point guard position. Lead guards today are explosive athletes carrying a dizzying array of yo-yo handles, momentum-changing fluidity and the omnipresent potential for aerial displays.

With a still-hobbled Dwight Howard anchoring a Pau Gasol-less Lakers interior, Nash has exposed this team to a seemingly endless parade of penetration. The Lakers don't have the athletes, nor the desire to keep those dribble drives resulting in anything but point-blank chances for the opposition.

Statistics say Nash is no longer a superstar; cognition shows he's clearly a flop.

But the diagnosis from a simple eye test is far worse—his days being anything but an average NBA point guard are behind him.

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