Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash has had a rough past two seasons, suffering through various ailments and looking like a shadow of his former self. Entering Tuesday night's home game against the Houston Rockets, Nash had played in only 14 games this season and was even declared out for the rest of the campaign several weeks ago, only to return shortly thereafter as a backup for starter Kendall Marshall. As Nash has documented in his web series, all of this has been a real struggle.
The silver lining is that Nash now has something very positive to show for his efforts this season. Late in the second quarter of that game vs. the Rockets, Nash passed ahead to Jodie Meeks for an easy fastbreak dunk and his fifth assist of the night. It was also the 10,335th assist of his career, putting him one ahead of current Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson for third on the NBA's all-time list. Take a look below:
Jackson immediately congratulated Nash on knocking him down to fourth on the list:
Congrats to the Great @SteveNash on passing me on the All Time Assist list! I'm Honored!! God Bless#4
— Mark Jackson (@MarkJackson13) April 9, 2014
Nash should stay at third all-time for the foreseeable future. At 12,091 assists, Jason Kidd is well ahead of the two-time MVP, particularly considering that Nash's health is an ongoing concern. Andre Miller is second on the active list at 8,133 assists, but his advanced age and 3.3 per-game average this season mean he likely won't challenge Nash's position. Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul (6,084 assists) looks like the most likely challenger among active players, which means little considering how far he has to go. As Nash has learned, longevity is never assured.
Nash did not play again the rest of the game following his historic dime, which indicates head coach Mike D'Antoni — also Nash's coach during his heyday with the Phoenix Suns — was looking to get his player ahead of Jackson. Before the game, Nash said as much to reporters. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (via PBT):
“Mike really wants me to get this assist thing out of the way,” Nash said. “Now I would really like to get it out of the way frankly. It’s out there in the air and everybody is talking about it in a way.”
It's anyone's guess as to whether Nash will play again for the Lakers this season, but this accomplishment is about a lot more than his current status. While Nash has hit several roadblocks with the Lakers, he remains one of the most creative passers the NBA has ever seen, a player with tremendous vision and the ability to create passing angles with his own dribbling and manipulation of the defense. Although he has never been one of the most athletic players in the NBA, Nash has shown an entire generation of point guards new ways to get their teammates the ball in positions to score.
In fact, it's fitting that Dirk Nowitzki, one of the men who benefited most from playing with Nash, achieved his own milestone on Tuesday night. Nash dished out 797 assists to Nowitzki during their six seasons together in Dallas, or roughly 7.7 percent of his career total. Two players (Suns stars Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion) have received more assists than Nowitzki, but the confluence of these two milestones is a nice encapsulation of their effect on each other.
By the way, the Lakers dropped the game to the Rockets by a score of 145-130. Houston guard James Harden led all players with 12 assists.
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