LOS ANGELES —
Like anyone in this town who has ever bitten his knuckles purple at the sight of that pale little floppy-haired guy from Phoenix, I have seen Steve Nash twist and stretch and seriously wrinkle some Lakers uniforms.
But now he’s going to actually wear one?
I’m writing this on the night of July 4, but the blasts and sparkles outside my office window can’t compare to the cheery bombs bouncing through the pulse of Lakers fans, who might need until dawn’s early light to believe this.
A team with a gaping vacancy at point guard just smothered it with a future Hall of Fame point guard. A team that spent last season boring the entertainment capital just acquired one of basketball’s best showmen. Nap time just took three quick dribbles toward again becoming Showtime.
Steve Nash is a Los Angeles Laker and, man, is this going to be fun.
Like one of those no-look moves made famous by the man himself, Nash’s acquisition Wednesday is stunningly spectacular from a variety of angles.
It allows the Lakers to run the sort of chaotic, choreographed offense that can hang with the turbos from Oklahoma City and San Antonio. It takes the pressure off Kobe Bryant during crunch times that are increasingly crunching him.
And, oh yes, it gives the Lakers the sort of balanced attack that would be attractive to another potential acquisition who was worried about Bryant’s ball hogging. No, Steve Nash can’t play defense, but that won’t matter so much if his presence leads to the acquisition of Dwight Howard, who must surely see that the Lakers are now his best chance for a ring.
The Lakers can and should still acquire Howard too, because Nash stunningly cost them little. They sent Phoenix some draft picks, which is no big deal right now considering the Lakers have not had a first-round pick since 2007 and have won two titles since then.
They also sent Phoenix the trade exception they acquired in the dumping of Lamar Odom, which leads me to write something as nutty as Nash leading a fast break.
Good job, Lakers executive vice president Jimmy Buss. Even if you were initially just trying to save money by trading Odom, you have proved everyone wrong by essentially trading him for Nash.
At first blush, it is amazing that Phoenix would actually allow Nash to negotiate a trade with the Suns’ primary rival. But then again, if Nash had gone to the Toronto Raptors or the New York Knicks as a free agent, the Suns would have received nothing.
It was a smart deal for Phoenix, an amazing steal for the Lakers, and the coolest of moves for Nash, whose three-year, $27 million Lakers deal is nearly $10 million less than he could have received elsewhere. He told the Suns he wanted to remain near his three children in Phoenix. And he is clearly telling the Lakers that, after spending 16 years in the league without a single appearance in the NBA Finals, he wants desperately to win.
At age 38, is he still spry enough to win? Well, he’s not Chris Paul anymore, but he’s still got plenty of Steve Nash. He led the league in assists in five of the past eight seasons. And last season, while he averaged only 13 points, his 53 percent shooting was the second-best percentage of his career.
He is not going to dominate games like he did several years ago in consecutive postseasons against the Lakers. But he can still steer and steady games like few others.
His biggest shortcoming remains that he plays defense like those guys in Spain who wave those red capes. While the Lakers now have a brand-new offense, they still don’t have anybody to guard Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker.
Coach Mike Brown’s defensive wizardry will now be tested, as well as Jimmy Buss’ commitment. The Lakers cannot stop here. The Lakers cannot think that Steve Nash alone will bring them a championship. They have one big move left. They know what it must be.
For now, though, it’s worth celebrating a trade so swift and strong and smart, not even NBA Commissioner David Stern could stop it.