Is This the Steve Nash LA Lakers Will See Again Next Season?
Due to injuries Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash only managed to start 50 games during the 2012-13 regular season, yet he still averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and nearly 44 percent from the three-point line.
Those are decent numbers when you consider Nash was forced to concede most of the ball-handling duties to Kobe Bryant, and he had to adapt to having two interior players in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, who were actually more comfortable playing in the paint.
Nash has vowed not to take any time off in his effort to be 100 percent healthy entering the 2013-14 season, but even if he does reach that goal, can he really be a better player at 40 than he is at 39?
More continuity would certainly help Nash and the Lakers next season, assuming Howard decides to make Los Angeles his long-term home, but a full offseason and training camp will not solve all of the Lakers' issues.
And it definitely doesn't ease my main concern about Nash.
If the Lakers are able to keep their core intact, then improved chemistry will make them a stronger team. But if Kobe does make a successful return from his Achilles injury and is available opening day, the Lakers will also be one of the NBA's oldest teams.
And that doesn't bode well when you consider the only way the Lakers can be competitive with the younger teams in their conference is if they slow the game down and focus on playing dominant defense.
Even when Nash was younger, he never much cared for defense and while we might see a healthier version of Nash next season, what are the chances that he will be a better defensive player?
I would say slim to none, but compared to how awful he was this season, anything would be an improvement.
Nash and Bryant can still be a potent tandem on offense next season, but it's equally possible that they might be the worst defensive backcourt in the league as well.
Bryant was already only a shadow of his former defensive self before rupturing his Achilles tendon, and his quickness and lateral movement will only be further diminished by the injury.
The presence of a healthy Howard may not be enough to offset Nash's and Bryant's poor perimeter defense, and while Howard's decision will not hinge on that certainty, it might be a factor he considers.
Unfortunately for the Lakers any plans for the near future will almost certainly include Nash since he's under contract for the next two seasons at $9 million per, and it's unlikely any other team would want him anyway.
Only the most optimistic Lakers fans can find the silver lining in an immediate future that includes another season with head coach Mike D'Antoni and Nash leading the charge, but what happens when reality sets in?
Maybe Nash will improve his offensive numbers from last season if healthy, but he still has to defend the likes of Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry on a nightly basis and if you didn't notice, each of those players routinely punished the Lakers during the season.
Nash still has faith that if the Lakers can manage to stay healthy, they have the potential to reach the greatness that most Lakers fans envisioned when the roster was assembled.
However, I'm not sure if health, improved chemistry and the return of Howard can compensate for the fundamental flaw that plagues Nash and the Lakers' other perimeter players.
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