Steve Nash's trade to the Los Angeles Lakers won't do much for the team's continued frustration with guarding quick point guards. It doesn't give the team a standout defender on the wing, to aid Kobe Bryant as he attempts to do double All-NBA duty on both sides of the ball. It won't provide immediate help in changing Andrew Bynum's level of maturity, because if Bynum wasn't going to get it straight for someone as demanding as Bryant, then this was something that went deeper than locker room guidance. And it's probably not going to provide an immediate panacea to the team's depth woes off the bench, or the frustration with trying to shoehorn Pau Gasol in at power forward.
[Adrian Wojnarowski: Steve Nash's arrival could lure Dwight Howard to L.A.]
What it will do is add Steve Nash, one of the best point guards in NBA history, to the Los Angeles Lakers. It will give the team and Bryant a new wrinkle they haven't worked with before — a dominant offensive point guard to pull the team either out of the triangle instincts they have left over (which we're a little uneasy with, because of those big men) or the Bryant-centric offense we saw last year (take a guess). And because this is Steve Nash we're talking about, this acts as a bit more than a wrinkle. This is a San Andrea-sized fissure.
And because this is Kobe Bryant we're talking about, the onus is going to fall on him again. He's going to have to give up the ball. He's going to have to cede to a point guard that can make life easier for other people offensively in ways that Kobe can't just by firing his way out of danger. Apparently he helped recruit Steve Nash, and he's going to have to deal with the same in-season ramifications that too-eager owners and GMs talk themselves into during the offseason when their eagerness takes over. Kobe Bryant is going to have to make it work.
Nash is far from the perfect piece, even offensively. Bynum can gather a pass and dive down the lane with the best of them, but he's not nearly as willing as some of Nash's former teammates (Amar'e Stoudemire and Marcin Gortat, to name two) to bend to grab a bounce pass, nor stay as active throughout as Nash keeps buzzing around. At some point, he'll want to plod and post up, once fatigue sets in. On top of that, Bynum is going to have to work extra hard defensively, as the Lakers try to overcome their new point guard's lacking defensive play.
[Marc J. Spears: Lakers land Steve Nash for draft picks]
Gasol didn't just find his best friend, either. Pau can gather a pass and set a damn good screen as well, but he's at his best when the offense flows through him, and other than using Nash as a spot-up shooter (which he's among the best in the league at, when defenses actually leave him alone long enough to get a shot off in half-court), this really doesn't benefit Steve much beyond giving him a break as the primary offense initiator.
Except that this is Kobe's job, kind of. Nash will say so, when things become official and the Lakers hand him his uniform in public. And Kobe will demur, because it's July. Game time, especially in springtime, is another story. And if Bryant treats Nash like a souped-up Steve Kerr — ready to provide spacing as a shooter while Kobe goes into pump fake mode — then the Lakers won't be taking advantage of the significant gifts they've been afforded. Significant gifts that can put them right back in the Finals.
Lakers fans can bemoan me sprinkling on their latest parade all they want, but they also have to understand that I'm just as giddy as they are — without the flag affixed to my Corolla half a country away. They also need to understand that, without any Lakers logos stuck around my house, I found it a upsetting as they did that a team as good as this has procured just a 1-8 record in its last two second-round series. We're aware that the team's issues went far beyond the easy swipe of "Kobe shoots too many inefficient shots too often, and especially late in close games," and that the Nash acquisition is not an answer to those issues. But we also know that Kobe Bryant has a lot of game modifying to do at an age that most players don't take to learning new tricks.
[Adrian Wojnarowski: Nets have a backup plan if they can't land Dwight Howard]
Los Angeles' new trick, after a year off, is spending money. For all we know the Laker front office could use the amnesty provision and cut anyone from Metta World Peace to Pau to Kobe Bryant free, but in the interim this team left us surprised at the out-of-nowhere acquisition of this certain Hall of Famer as we were at the idea that they would willingly head back into crazy luxury tax land with this deal. A huge shocker for a team that waylaid Lamar Odom's career, dumped Derek Fisher for a few million (only to see him show up as an opponent two months later), and decimated the team's scouting staff with firings (a staff that has to do more than watch college basketball games -- games that won't count now that the Lakers have given away a series of draft picks). To even toss $3 million Phoenix's way is saying something.
No, the Lakers have spent money, and until they deal one of their stars for pennies on the dollar, we'll applaud them for as much. And we applaud Kobe for aiding in this upgrade.
The proof is in the production, though. A second-round wipeout was embarrassment enough before Nash's arrival. With him in town now? Such a conference semifinal misstep would be criminal.
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