Can Steve Nash Still Help the Lakers?
The losses are continuing to pile up for the Los Angeles Lakers at a historic rate. They run one of the most one-dimensional, predictable offenses in the league that is overly reliant on Kobe Bryant, whose shot selection has never been more ill-advised and unfiltered. Defensively, they often play uninspired, having great difficulty containing anyone out on the perimeter.
Despite the change at head coach over the summer from Mike D’Antoni to Byron Scott, these kind of issues have become all too familiar for the Lakers over the last three years. Only, before, they had hope to point to, whether it was the return of Bryant and Steve Nash or the opportunity to make a run at Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in free agency.
Now, the direction of the franchise is as unclear as ever. The Lakers are playing with all their cards with no ace up their sleeve. Bryant is still a beast, but is an inefficient as ever and limited in how far he can carry this supporting cast. Rookie forward Julius Randle came in with a lot of promise, but his career wasn’t even 48 regular season minutes old before it came to a screeching halt for the rest of the year. He’ll basically be a rookie next season, making it hard to label him as the savior.
As they have in the past, the Lakers will continue to go after the best. They’ll use the appeal of the bright lights of Hollywood and max offers as their main selling points, but as they’ve learned in their dealings with Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Anthony and James, those no longer hold the kind of weight that they used to. Bryant has said that he likely won’t play beyond his current contract that expires at the end of the 2015-16 season, which ESPN would have you believe is an advantage, but in today’s day and age where it’s unmistakably clear that a team with just one superstar can’t win it all, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to help the Lakers’ cause in any way.
What the Lakers are hoping puts them over the top with the free agents they covet the most, specifically Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant who is set to become a free agent in 2016, is the loyalty that they’ve displayed to their stars in the past.
Bryant had yet to play a single game on his surgically repaired Achilles tendon before they offered him a contract that made him the league’s highest paid player for the next two years. While most teams would have dealt Pau Gasol’s expiring contract to avoid the stiffer luxury tax penalties and add an extra draft pick or two, the Lakers kept him in order to show that they weren’t concerned about the cost to keep good players. There probably isn’t a franchise in the league that wouldn’t have stretched Nash’s contract or tried to get him to agree to a reduced buyout at this point, but instead the Lakers are paying his full salary this year and offering a spot with the team in his post-playing career, according to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. They’re even letting him take as much time away from the team as he wants as he accepts the fact that his playing days are over.
Will any of that matter to Durant in 2016 or Rajon Rondo this offseason? Do they care more about being on a team that can compete for a championship over playing for a franchise with a great history that is loyal to the great players they acquire? Only time will tell, but this has become one of the Lakers’ primary selling points due to the changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and their foiled plan to transition from the Kobe-Pau era to the Chris Paul-Dwight Howard era like they hoped, and came very close to pulling off.
Quick Hits From Around the League:
- New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon is out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. This comes just as Gordon was starting to play better. Unfortunately for Gordon and the Pelicans, this is all too familiar territory for them. Gordon has suffered one major injury after another since signing a long-term deal with them in 2012. Gordon was averaging 30 minutes a game, which Pelicans head coach Monty Williams will be forced to distribute amongst Austin Rivers, Jimmer Fredette and Russ Smith in his absence. With a lack of depth, particularly in the backcourt, this is going to be a very difficult injury for the Pelicans to deal with. It also makes it to where they cannot afford another injury to a starter, or else they’ll be in serious danger in a Western Conference where every game is vital.
- The Lakers announced today that forward Xavier Henry suffered what they fear is a ruptured Achilles tendon today in practice during a three-on-three drill. The Lakers have been working out multiple players this week, including Tyrus Thomas, Quincy Miller, Gal Mekel and Roscoe Smith for Henry’s spot, as they were already debating cutting him. He has a guaranteed contract for just over $1 million, but has been plagued with injuries ever since he started to breakout early last season. A ruptured Achilles typically requires 8-12 months of recovery time. At 23 years of age, Henry is young enough to recover and work his way back into the league, but it’s going to take a lot of time, dedication and perseverance as this is one of the most devastating injuries a basketball player can suffer. However, he needs to look no further than the 36-year-old Bryant for proof that it is possible to come back from and still play at a high level.
- According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Indiana Pacers have cooled on the possibility of Paul George coming back this season. At 5-8 the Pacers are actually still firmly in the hunt to make the playoffs this season, but even with George working out in a pool and working hard to recover from a devastating broken leg during a Team USA scrimmage this summer, they’re not wanting to push him too soon. The Pacers are somewhat in a state of flux, needing to figure out whether they are going to take the franchise in a different direction upon George’s return, or simply try to make it work with the aging David West and Roy Hibbert as his main support as they did prior to the injury, minus Lance Stephenson of course. Until they figure it out, it’s probably in both parties best interest that he sits back, waits and recovers for the 2015-16 campaign.
- The Philadelphia 76ers are set to add Furkan Aldemir on a two-year fully guaranteed contract. Aldemir was originally drafted late in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, but his draft rights eventually ended up in the hands of the Houston Rockets while Sam Hinkie was still working in their front office. When Hinkie took over the 76ers, he really wanted to bring him over as well and was willing to take on the contract of Royce White, who the Rockets had a lot of problems with, in order to acquire his rights. Trading White became a necessity for the Rockets in order to create salary cap space to sign Dwight Howard. Prior to joining the 76ers, Aldemir was averaging 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in the Euroleague.
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