Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers.
There are obviously reasons to believe this, and we will delve into those shortly. Prior to tackling them, one must understand what the two-time league MVP needs at his disposal to surpass his level of productivity in 2012-13.
Given Nash’s Hall of Fame résumé as a point guard, it’s important that he receives the reins of the offense and also that he gets comfortable with his team’s identity and roster. Indeed, the key is to make things incredibly simple for the Canadian.
The Lakers went through multiple identity changes in 2012-13, and it caused Nash’s play to suffer.
What’s different this time around?
Steve Nash spent the 2012-13 training camp learning the Princeton offense at the behest of former head coach Mike Brown. LeBron James’ former head coach was dismissed after five games and was subsequently replaced by Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni never got an opportunity to run a training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers, and, consequently, the team took some time in figuring out their identity.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, the coaching staff will prepare the Lakers for the running game and get Nash’s body ready for that type of grind.
Planning the season is not simply about set plays and rotations. Style of play dictates the players’ physical requirements, and, in this case, Nash will be prepared for the up-tempo offensive style of play.
This speaks to his level of comfort with the team. Understanding the Lakers’ identity moving forward allows Nash to get his body aligned with the demands of the regular season and perform at a high level.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni
Going into 2013-14, the Los Angeles Lakers will open up the offense and play at one of the fastest paces in the league, given Mike D’Antoni’s emphasis on getting the ball up and down the floor.
Since the 2004-05 season, D’Antoni’s teams have finished outside of the top five in league-leading paces only once. Needless to say, point guard play is important for these types of teams because of ball security.
Steve Nash has repeatedly proven this is his wheelhouse. Consequently, D’Antoni will put the ball in his hands and give him the freedom to conduct the offense as he sees fit. His 2012-13 usage rate of 17.8 (fourth lowest of his career) should see an uptick as Nash gets to once again play maestro for the Lakers coaching staff.
The 2012-13 campaign demanded a little more offensive flexibility because of the roster. However, the 2013-14 Lakers will mirror D’Antoni’s vision of offensive basketball.
They will put one big man on the floor and surround him with shooters and playmakers on the perimeter. Nash has routinely shown throughout his Phoenix Suns days that he is masterful in such a setting, and it should not be any different with the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant monopolized the offense during the 2012-13 season by essentially becoming the team’s primary ball-handler. Steve Nash consequently spent a lot of time camped out on the perimeter as a floor spacer.
Nash mostly asserted himself as both a playmaker and shooter after Bryant initially attacked the defense. Going into 2013-14, however, Nash will become the primary man with the ball because of Bryant’s health.
The Lakers’ all-time leading scorer ruptured his Achilles late in the 2012-13 campaign and could potentially miss the first month of the 2013-14 regular season if not more. This puts the entire offense on the point guard’s shoulders, and he has proven in prior seasons that he is up for the task.
In the event Bryant is ready by opening night, his explosiveness might be somewhat compromised nonetheless. Hence, it is still in the Lakers’ best interest to have Nash handle the ball and get his shine on.
Dwight Howard of the LA Lakers.
Dwight Howard spurned the Los Angeles Lakers in favor of the Houston Rockets. His production will be difficult to replace but it must happen nonetheless. His exit vacates the low post and spreads out the floor for pick-and-rolls.
Steve Nash is one of the league’s premier screen-and-roll players and he will be afforded far more opportunities in 2013-14. The two-time league MVP will be asked to shoulder more of the scoring load with Howard no longer in Los Angeles and that turns him into a far more important figure on the team.
The Lakers are still Kobe Bryant’s team, but the subtraction of Howard means the pecking order will be redefined. Nash moves up one spot in the hierarchy and should resemble the player that Suns fans saw in his final year in Phoenix.
Unfamiliar territory for Steve Nash: the sidelines
One cannot predict injuries given that they are at times simply a matter of bad luck. However, athletes who are well-conditioned tend to avoid health issues and appear in contests on a consistent basis.
Steve Nash’s training regimen combined has allowed him to regularly suit up in contests despite playing heavy minutes late in his career. Since rejoining the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05, Nash has only failed to appear in 70 games or more twice.
One of those instances includes the truncated 2011-12 campaign, where every team played 66 games (the Canadian appeared in 62), and the second occurrence was during the 2012-13 season, where he put on his Lakers jersey 50 times.
In other words, it is probably safe to assume Nash will play just about 70 games or more in 2013-14.