Well, well, well. Just when you thought the obituary for the Los Angeles Lakers had already been written, here comes Steve Nash.
One day after Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets made the biggest splash in the 2012 free agency period, the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a massive firecracker over the rest of the league on the Fourth of July. Nash, the two-time NBA MVP and future Hall-of-Famer, is headed to Hollywood to join fellow all-stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Phoenix Suns and the Lakers agreed on a sign-and-trade deal Wednesday that sends the 38-year-old Nash to the Lakers in exchange for draft picks and cash.
The deal won’t become official until July 11, but several media outlets have confirmed the deal and ESPN writer Marc Stein reported that Bryant’s determined persuasion closed the most stunning deal of the summer. Nash will reportedly get a three-year deal worth $27 million.
The Lakers swept in at the last minute, leaving Phoenix, New York, and Toronto in the dust. The Raptors fired the first offer, a three-year, $34 million offer, which was followed by the Knicks’ enticing sign-and-trade proposal.
But neither the Raptors nor the Knicks could offer Nash an opportunity to win now and be a champion. An NBA title ring is the only gem missing in Nash’s jewelry case and he knew, if joined forces with Kobe, the Lakers would jump over San Antonio and Oklahoma City as the top dog in the Western Conference. After a few chats with Kobe, Nash reached out to the Suns and pitched the sign-and-trade idea.
“I approached [the Suns] and asked if they would be willing to do a sign-and-trade deal with L.A. because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family,” Nash said. “They were apprehensive and didn’t want to do it. Fortunately for me, they reconsidered.
“They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better. I couldn’t be more grateful to the organization.”
Leaving the Suns was tough on Nash, who is a loyal guy and thought the world of Phoenix. He could have easily signed with the Lakers without the sign-and-trade, but he didn’t want Phoenix to be left empty handed. Once the Nash deal was done, the Suns acted quickly as they reached an agreement with free agent point guard Goran Dragic to fill the void. So don’t feel too bad for the Suns.
With Nash at point guard, Kobe at shooting guard, Ron Artest at small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward, and Andrew Bynum at center, the Lakers now have the best starting five in the NBA. No team comes close to what the Lakers have — an All-Star at each position.
After battling each other in the Pacific Division for nearly a decade, Nash and Bryant now form arguably the greatest backcourt tandem the league has ever seen. The Nash-Kobe combo is easily the best Laker backcourt since Gail Goodrich and Jerry West. The Lakers are the only team in the league with two regular-season MVPs on their roster.
What hurt the Lakers last season was offensive execution. The ball stopped moving, Kobe dominated the ball too much, and Gasol and Bynum didn’t get enough touches.
In the playoffs, the Lakers broke 100 points only three times. Nash instantly makes the Lakers a lethal offensive team and he will fix whatever ails them. Nash will become the offensive coordinator, and head coach Mike Brown can focus on defensive game plans.
Nash’s new teammate can’t wait for the season to start. “Even if Steve Nash is not initiating the offense you still can’t leave him open,” Artest said.
Aside from his usual steady ballhandling and pinpoint passing, Nash is a career 50% shooter from the field. He ranks fifth all-time in assists at 9,916, just behind Lakers legend Magic Johnson who had 10,141 assists. He has a 16-point career average and shoots 90% from the free throw line. Nash is one of five regular-season MVPs without a championship ring. Derrick Rose, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, and Karl Malone are the others. LeBron James removed himself from this dubious list this past season, and Nash would love to do the same.
Defense is the only weakness in Nash’s game, but with 7-footers Bynum and Gasol protecting the rim Nash shouldn’t have to worry about shutting anyone down in the perimeter.
“If we played together, we will be amazing,” Artest said. “With an A, H, and then an M, A, Z, Z, and I, N, G. It will be Ahmazzing!”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.