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Was the Lakers trading for Steve Nash a mistake?
by rick olivares
In the wake of the 40-year old Steve Nash going down with another injury (a nerve irritation after suffering a back injury), there has been talk about how it was a mistake to bring the former two-time Most Valuable Player to Los Angeles.
Remember how it was trumpeted that along with Dwight Howard, Nash would make a great addition to an ageing Lakers team that had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? You could even throw in Metta World Peace to make them a pro version of the Fab Five.
But that team never achieved the greatness that was expected of them. The Dwight Howard experiment lasted a year. Nash has been mostly injured. Bryant has been also mostly injured the past two seasons. Gasol’s name has been floated around once more as trade bait. Metta World Peace? He went coast-to-coast where he now balls for the New York Knicks.
My first thought was the LA Lakers of 2004 when they brought in former Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone and Seattle Supersonics point guard Gary Payton to complement Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. When was the last time Los Angeles was brimming with that many a player who would one day hold their own Hall of Fame wing? Except that team made the NBA Finals only to be unexpectedly waylaid by the Detroit Pistons. The following year, Shaq, Payton, Malone, and head coach Phil Jackson were gone. So much for the Fantastic Four.
The Lakers throughout their history have fielded great teams with players coming up from the draft aided and abetted by a few key trades.
They brought in Wilt Chamberlain to hold the middle for draft stars Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.
In the 1980s, they had already brought in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to man the middle for young bucks Earvin Johnson, James Worthy, AC Green and Byron Scott (he was drafted by the LA Clippers but traded on draft day to the Lakers).
The point being the Lakers generally do well in the draft then trade for huge pieces to the puzzle. And it’s usually a center like Chamberlain, O’Neal, and later Pau Gasol and Howard. When they try to build instant contenders through trades, it hasn’t happened for them.
You might want to check out the Knicks in the east where it hasn’t worked out with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Their one shining moment was when Jeremy Lin almost single-handedly brought them to greatness and they traded him away.
And that brings us back to Steve Nash.
Was it a mistake?
Not at all because of the simply reason that who would have thought that he’d suffer all these injuries?
What I do remember was Nash’s initial reticence to play for the Lakers. And even as the trade was gong down, how would his style of play fit that Lakers team he was going into?
Nash was effective in Dallas and Phoenix not simply with the uptempo offense or small ball installed by Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni respectively. He worked well with big men who knew how to move and set up the pick and roll like the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitski and the Suns’ Amare Stoudemire.
They ran and ran some more. They lit up the scoreboard like former NBA coach Paul Westhead’s teams (the Showtime Lakers from 1979-81 and the Denver Nuggets of 1989-90). Except the “Guru of Go” won only one title and that was in 1979-80 when Magic Johnson was a rookie. But when he began to push for more scoring, his teams won some but didn’t win the Larry O’Brien trophy or worse, was booted out prompting his removal.
The Lakers acquired pieces that didn’t seem to fit – Nash, Howard and even possibly, head coach Mike D’Antoni.
There were concerns whether Bryant would cede ball control to Nash since the offense goes through the Lakers’ star. But we never really did find out as the two played 50 games together in their first year as teammates and nothing in this second year as injured have been injured. The two had finally broken down after so much mileage in those legs. So it is really hard to say (although for many other it is looking more and more like a mistake as in the latest ESPN poll, out of a poll of 16, 764 respondents, 41% said it was a minor mistake while 35% said it was a major mistake leaving the remaining 24% to say, ‘nay’ it wasn’t a mistake at all.
“Now this is going to be fun” was the blurb on the cover of the October 28, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview that featured Nash and Howard in their Lakers gear.
Just unfulfilled promises.
The rebuilding in LA continues.