Are Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake Enough for Lakers to Cover for Aging Steve Nash?

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Are Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake Enough for Lakers to Cover for Aging Steve Nash?
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

This just in: Steve Nash is old. 

With age, comes restrictions. Minutes must be lessened for fear of injury and in extreme cases, entire games must be missed to preserve the body.

Nash, the oldest player in the NBA at 39, has hit that point. Per Lakers Nation's Serena Winters, he's already come to terms with missing some time this season:

His grasp on reality is great, because according to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni may be prepared to begin operation Caution Tape right away:

Should Magic Mike choose to shelve Nash against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers would be left with Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake to run point. And should this become a habit throughout the season, that's not going to change. 

"There will be a time for all of them," D’Antoni said of the point guard situation, according to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. "It just depends who’s hot early. I’m sure all of them will get good runs."

Extended runs is more like it. Without Nash and Kobe Bryant, Blake and Farmar become Los Angeles' playmaking lifelines. For games at a time, they'll be Nash, sans the fascination with soccer.

Quite obviously, that's far from ideal. What we're waiting on is whether it's offensively debilitating, too.

 

Establishing The Workload

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It always pays to know what you're dealing with.

When you're buying a car, you'd like to know it's been in seven separate accidents. When you're asking Lady Gaga on a date, it's great to know you have friends who will stop you. And when coming up with contingency plans for extra rest in the NBA, it's imperative you know how many games you'll need to cover.

Los Angeles plays 18 back-to-backs this season, seven of which come after the All-Star break. If Nash were to sit out the tail end of every single one, the Lakers would be without him for 18 games, almost a quarter of the season...at least.

Remember, Nash missed a career-high 32 contests last season. That 18 would serve as the bare minimum. No telling what happens to him during one of the other 64 games he's supposed to play.

Playing into the age of 40 rarely results in continued dominance. Though Nash is better than most wrinkly vets, he's not above time. When sparring against natural regression, the outlook for someone his age is quite bleak.

As I detailed in a previous piece:

Nash, already the oldest player in the league, will turn 40 in February. In NBA years, which are typically crueler than dog years, that's ancient.

Last season, there were only two 40-year-olds who appeared in any games—Grant Hill and Kurt Thomas. Neither played more than 39 times or averaged more than 15.1 minutes of active duty.

In fact, Nash was one of only three players, aged 37 or older, to log more than 25 minutes a night. The other two were Ray Allen and Jason Kidd, the latter of whom is retired and coaching the Brooklyn Nets.

When (if?) healthy, Nash won't likely be able to match his 32.5 minutes from last season. Years of wear and tear began to catch up with him even then. The 32 games he missed in 2012-13 were a career high and marked just the second time in 17 years he sat out more than 20 games.

First, I hope that answers your question of whether I'm above quoting myself (no).

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Nash could miss a quarter of 2013-14 easily.

Second, the bar for a more humanized Nash has already been set. Injury-plagued campaigns aren't flukes when you're approaching two decades of work. Usually, they're a sign of things to come.

Staying true to senescent tendencies, Nash's 2012-13 campaign should be a harbinger of what's next, which means Blake and Farmar will have their work cut out for them.

 

Farmar On His Own?

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Health isn't a concern for Nash and Nash alone. Blake isn't a spry 25-year-old anymore (he was never really mobile to begin with); he's 33, going on 34. Basically, he joins Nash in going to bed before 9:30 p.m.

Two of Los Angeles' three primary playmakers are so far beyond 30, it's tragic. Well, potentially tragic. 

Blake missed more games than Nash last season (37). In a sense, he presents more of an injury risk than his formerly floppy-haired companion. Restricting his minutes could help keep him fresh and prevent further injury, but now we're talking bout two point guards on a rest-and-relaxation plan.

That leaves Farmar, a 26-year-old who hasn't played in the NBA for over a year. The last time he appeared in the Association, Andrew Bynum was healthy. 

Health doesn't figure to be an issue with him but potential is. Though he started 301 games through four seasons with the Lakers, he's basically a backup. He's never averaged more than 25 minutes a night and has dished out more than 3.3 assists just once.

Alongside a functioning Kobe, his mediocre playmaking and lack of extensive playing time isn't cause for panic. The Black Mamba tied a career high with six assists per game last season. He can fill in for both Nash and Blake when they can't go.

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Lakers will be forced to play Farmar extensively.

If only he were healthy. Bean has already been ruled out for the start of the season, and there's no predicting how long it will be before he suits up. After that, there's no guarantee he's even himself.

Realistically, there could be games where Farmar finds himself alone. In 2009, with a younger and healthier Pau Gasol and Kobe, and a peaking Lamar Odom, maybe the Lakers find a way to power through those nights. In 2013-14, when the team is awfully fragile, its core old and its collective well-being dependent on role players more than superstars, it's not going to fly. 

 

Farmar and Blake vs. Nash

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No one is ever going to replace Nash for the Lakers completely. They know this. Nash is a future Hall of Famer and, when healthy, still one of the most calculated playmakers in the game.

Still, the Lakers will be forced to try, and they'll do so with who they have—Blake and Farmar. Trouble is, even together, they don't supplement Nash's production.

Since Farmar entered the league in 2006, he and Blake have combined for 32.3 win shares. During that same time, Nash has accumulated 58.4 on his own, nearly double that of his current backups.

Take the most recent win-share totals for Blake (2012-13) and Farmar (2011-12), and they amount to 4.5 in 84 games. Nash, through 50 appearances, rattled off 4.3 on his own in 2012-13.

I get it, Nash is a completely different player, on a whole other plane. But that's the point. The Lakers gave up four draft picks for him for a reason; they need him. He isn't interchangeable with any backup. Or even a pair of backups.

In him, the Lakers have a seasoned veteran, barely a year displaced from playing at a superstar level. They have a perennial 50-40-90 box score assault. 

They have a starting point guard who won't be supplanted by the duo of alternatives the Lakers have assembled.

 

Setting the Ceiling for Blake and Farmar

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Ideally, this isn't even a question. Nash would play in 70-plus games and go for last season's 12.7 points and 6.7 assists, or play even better.

In hopes of keeping him fresh, healthy and, Kobe's recovery willing, ready for the postseason, that's not how 2013-14 is going to play out, even if Nash is physically able to make it happen. Steps to ensure his well-being beyond this year are going to be taken. The Lakers need him to play out the life of his contract; they need him for next season.

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Life at point guard, then, will, per McMenamin, comprise a never-ending string of game-time decisions. On any given night, Farmar and Blake will be all the Lakers have to run with at point. 

Sporadically, that's fine. A game here, a game there—that's no big deal. Once it becomes common practice, or once Nash is forced to the sidelines for long stretches at a time, it becomes a problem.

This season, of all seasons, isn't one the Lakers can afford to lose Nash for 15-plus games. Not if they're planning on holstering the white flag.

Kobe isn't healthy, nor do we know when he'll be healthy. Gasol is coming off the worst season of his career and, while a superb distributor, cannot be the primary scoring option and resident playmaker. And the Lakers are wafer thin at point guard behind Nash.

Short term, Nash can't be replaced, but his absence can be stomached. Sacrificing an infrequent game to salvage what's left of the recurring All-Star is a price the Lakers can stand to pay.

Over the long haul, Blake and Farmar aren't enough.

"We'll see where we are in the schedule, where we are in the standings," D'Antoni said of Nash's season-long status, per the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus. "The idea is to cut down the numbers of games and keep the minutes consistent for him, but the number of games comes down."

The extent of the dedication to that idea will ultimately be what determines the Lakers' place in the standings. More of Nash will allow them to stay competitive. More of Blake and Farmar, coupled with Nash's absence, puts the Lakers at a disadvantage not even the Mamba's impending return can circumvent.

 

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