Lakers season wrap: Steve Nash was effective in revised role
Steve Nash was acquired last summer by the Lakers in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. After 16 seasons in the league, Nash came to the Lakers as a future Hall of Fame point guard but he gradually evolved into a shooting guard next to Kobe Bryant.
Injuries complicated the season as the 39-year-old Nash missed significant stretches. A collision with Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers saw Nash sit from the second half of that game on Oct. 31 to Dec. 22 as he dealt with a leg fracture and nerve issues.
Through his first 16 games after coming back from the injury, he averaged 9.2 assists a game, but the Lakers won just five of 16 games (31.3%).
After a Jan. 23 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the team held a meeting that led to Coach Mike D’Antoni shifting his offensive philosophy. The pace slowed significantly as Bryant took over as the offense’s primary initiator.
One of the team’s biggest victories of the season was at home against the Toronto Raptors, a wild overtime finish won by way of a number of Bryant heroics. Nash had 22 points on seven-of-13 shooting from the field and four-of six from three-point range -- but just two assists. Bryant had 41 points and 12 assists.
The Lakers didn’t expect Nash to serve as shooting guard next to Bryant, but that proved to be the winning formula for the team.
Over Nash’s final 33 games, he averaged 5.6 assists -- the Lakers winning 21 of 32 (65.6%).
On the year, Nash averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists in 50 games. He shot 49.7% from the field, 43.8% from behind the arc and 92.2% from the line. In comparison, in his final year with the Suns (2011-12), Nash averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists while shooting 53.2%, 39% and 89.4%, respectively.
His turnovers also dropped from 3.7 a game in his last year with the Suns to 2.5 with the Lakers.
On March 28, Nash went down again with hamstring and hip injuries (exacerbated by nerve problems in his back). Though he tried to play the following game (lasting just two minutes), he ended up sitting out the team’s final eight regular-season games.
Nash attempted to play against the San Antonio Spurs in the post-season, taking epidural and cortisone shots, but he clearly wasn’t himself through two appearances. He sat the last two as the Spurs completed a sweep of the Lakers.
If Nash (and Bryant, who went down late in the season with an Achilles’ injury) had stayed healthy all season, the Lakers would have finished stronger than their seventh-seeded 45-37 record.
Moving forward, the Lakers need health from Nash, who will make $19 million over the next two seasons.
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