Is Nash’s Return Enough For The Lakers?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mike D’Antoni needs a point guard to run his offense. Kobe Bryant doesn’t want to play point guard anymore. Dwight Howard would surely love a few more easy baskets every night. Pau Gasol would like to know if he fits on this team or needs to be traded. And Lakers fans are hoping that their favorite team really doesn’t stink this badly but is just missing its most important piece.

They’re all waiting on Steve Nash. They might not be waiting much longer.

Nash suffered a fracture in his left leg on the second night of the season and has had his eventual return pushed back a few times as the Lakers have gone 12-12 without him. At 12-14 now, they stand in 12th place in the Western Conference. But Nash practiced on Thursday and could be ready to play when the Lakers host the Knicks on Christmas Day, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles writes

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash went through his first full-contact practice without any setbacks to his broken left leg on Thursday.

But Nash said “it’s more likely” he’ll return to the court on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks than Saturday against Golden State.

“There’s no plan. I just want to get through today, see how I feel in the morning,” Nash said. “If I’m able to practice (Friday), see how I feel Saturday, we’ll just see how it goes. But I think Christmas is probably the most realistic.”

In the deep and competitive West, the Lakers have some serious work to do just to make the playoffs. The good news is that Nash will take their offense to a new level.

Last week, we noted how the Thunder and Knicks rank among the top four offenses since the league started counting turnovers in 1977. Well, before this season, the top five offenses over the last 35 years all had the same point guard: Steve Nash. Whether Nash was playing with Dirk Nowitzki or playing for D’Antoni, he ran the most efficient offense in the league.

In fact, for nine straight seasons, Nash ran the most efficient offense in the league, a run that ended two seasons ago.

Team offensive efficiency with Nash as starting PG

Season Team OffRtg Rank Lg. Eff. Diff. *Rank
1998-99 Dallas 99.3 15 99.2 +0.1 462
1999-00 Dallas 103.8 7 101.2 +2.6 213
2000-01 Dallas 104.5 4 100.2 +4.3 95
2001-02 Dallas 109.5 1 101.6 +7.9 3
2002-03 Dallas 108.1 1 100.7 +7.4 9
2003-04 Dallas 109.6 1 100.0 +9.5 1
2004-05 Phoenix 111.9 1 103.1 +8.8 2
2005-06 Phoenix 109.4 1 103.4 +5.9 31
2006-07 Phoenix 111.4 1 103.7 +7.7 5
2007-08 Phoenix 111.2 1 104.7 +6.5 21
2008-09 Phoenix 111.2 1 105.4 +5.7 36
2009-10 Phoenix 112.7 1 104.9 +7.8 4
2010-11 Phoenix 107.0 9 104.5 +2.5 215
2011-12 Phoenix 103.5 8 101.8 +1.7 293

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
*Rank = Among 938 teams from 1977-78 to 2011-12

The bad news is that the Lakers need a lot more help on the other end of the floor. L.A. currently ranks fifth in the league offensively and 15th defensively. In the month of December, they rank 26th defensively, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions over 10 games.

Nash and D’Antoni were together in Phoenix for four years and ranked no better than 13th defensively in that time, even with a great defender like Shawn Marion in the lineup. Similarly, the Lakers have Howard, but he hasn’t been able to make up for all the mistakes their perimeter defenders have been making.

As the Lakers anticipate getting Nash back, we have to wonder if a boost in offensive efficiency can make up for the porous defense. Typically, you have to be a top-10 team on both ends of the floor to be a true title contender. The Lakers will likely need to improve on both ends just to make the playoffs. Nash can’t get them to do that by himself.

67 Comments

  1. JimD54 says:

    Oh Yeah, the Lakers have Nash back now, look out Thunder, Spurs, Clippers and Grizzlies….HEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE.

  2. Stan says:

    I hope Nash keeps the ball out of Kobes hands cause he is not getting to the line or taking anything but outside jumpers. Kobe is a black hole that thinks he is alot better than he really is. Kobe is a washed up shell of his old self, this is not the Kobe that played for Phil Jackson but a Kobe that is playing like a blind dumb selfish player that is hurting the Lakers and costing them wins. Kobe must have a block head taking 41 shots in a game, not one freethrow. just a jumpshoots, no moves to the basket or aggressive play just alot of garbage and the coach keeps letting him do it.

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  8. lakers says:

    the wolves dont want k.love right? why don’t the lakers trade pau for him.

  9. Mayan Calendar Fail says:

    @Hunter…. You mean to say that Nash is more important to lakers than Dirk on MAVS???? lakers got D12 kobe MWW right now…. Even Pau…. That one still an allstar team on paper…. But for the mavs they surely miss Dirk a lot….Especially His Presence on the court…. Dirk brings shooting, extra size and leadership role on mavs… nash???? point gound… play maker… That’s all… Nash is a good leader don’t get me wrong… But lakers right now got a Leader in kobe… And that was one of many flaws of lakers… D12 wants to be the leader too… I guess there is no room for nash to lead…. Because kobe won’t allow him…. They got too many leaders in 1 team…. imagine 3 leaders on the same court… who PAU and MWW gonna listen too???? nash? kobe? D12? OKC Durant and westbrook, but Durant is the true leader… MIA Wade LBJ Bosh, LBJ Best player in the HEAT right now but their leader is DWADE… NYK Amare, Anthony ,Kidd…. Anthony is the leader…, L.A. Clippers BG CP3… Cp3 leads them…Spurs Duncan Parker, Manu… Timmy leading them… But for the lakers???? Pau is not the problem, coaching maybe…. But their main problem was themselves…. how long kobe will play for his STATS??? How long they will blame PAU D’Antoni on their losses??? For some that predicts the Finals will be HEAT lakers… That won’t happen just like the Mayan Calendar…. the lakers won’t participate in playoffs…….

  10. Mayan Calendar Fail says:

    For the MAVS maybe…. But for the lakers???? No Way!!!!! Even with Nash around…Ain’t gonna change the results…. kobe must involve everybody on offense… What’s the good of having NASH if the lakers designs a play solely to kobe???

  11. Hunter says:

    Mavericks and Lakers are very similar in this spot BOTH teams are waiting for Nowitzki and Nash to save their teams. BOTH teams will stack up alot of wins when they return.
    GO MAVS!!!

  12. Truedat says:

    Nobody at the end of this season will say “At least they made the playoffs.” It will be more like, we need help! Problem is time is running against Kobe, he doesn’t have 3 years for D’Antonio to figure it out. This season was high hopes to barely hope…..failure.

  13. LakersFan says:

    I’m actually thinking that Nash returning will boost the lakers defence, and here’s why. Kobe Bryant. With Nash returning to run the show, Kobe will have to do a lot less work on offense, therefore he can conserve more energy for the defence. This year he has not been the perimeter stopper he has been in years past, and that’s no surprise. And when your franchise player (sorry dwight, your time is coming, but not just yet) takes possessions off, your team takes possessions off. A requvinated Kobe on defence will ignite the teams defence. That’s the theory, lets see if it becomes reality…

  14. sukhwinder says:

    ohhh come on guys .. you know they have enough of their morale down seeing your sad faces in and after the games
    and now with your comments .. you are even making it harder for them to concentrate (putting so much pressure on them)
    as kobe always said “just let us do our job and we will be there where you wont us” … just give them your luck and love annd they will be doing real well

  15. Ant2k12 says:

    P.S learns and will be

  16. Ant2k12 says:

    The Lakers need a player’s only meeting to hash out any and all personal problems among them. Then it would be wise if Mike D’Antoni learn how to change his system and revolve it around the talent he’s got and ours Lakers will be on point. because I believe if he does that the Lakers a tough team to handle and can easy be in the Finals.

  17. GOSTEVENASH!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! says:

    Houdini are you crazy!?!?!?! Kobe is doing the best on the lakers this season and is averaging 29.5 ppg at the top of the league and his defense is amazing.

  18. Houdini says:

    The only way Lakers could make the playoffs is if Kobe is traded, period.

  19. Phil Jackson says:

    Why can’t you all admit that the Lakers are done. Championship is not happening this year. Playoffs are not happening either.

  20. Jhonnie says:

    To be perfectly honest, if Nash and Stockton are two of my favourite players. They said Stockton could make a blind man score 10 pts a game. Nash made SHAWN MARION score 21 points a game and almost made Quentin RIchardson an all-star. If he could do that, then he’ll have the Lakers up an running in no time. Plus, the Black Mamba can bring the Lakers to the playoffs himself as when he did it with Kwame Brown. Juse chill pplz – the former MVPs got this

  21. Tommy Scherer says:

    The Lakers have so many combinations out on the court that they don’t know themselves. When the “Dream team” got together they had sveral of the best players of all time (Magic ,Jordan, Barkley, Bird, Stockton, Malone, Mullen, etc.) They lost their first game to a college team! It takes some doing to meld as a team, and the Lakers have not done so. Remember when Shaq came to L.A.? The first year they were just a good team, but the following three years they dominated. It takes time and when Nash comes back it is going to take a month or more until they start to blend. That’s my 2 cents and by the way Dantoni seems to bench players a bit who are playing well. Like after MWP’s best game as a Laker, Dantoni didn’t start him, and after Meeks had an incredible 3 point shooting game he didn’t play much in the next game. Jamison started to play better (He can be a great scorer!) and then he benches him??

  22. Bok says:

    Nash alone can’t do it all for the Lakers, it’s the whole team. If they want to win the West, D’Antoni must trust his bench more, by mixing Meeks, Blake and/or Hill to their starting lineup and Gasol/Artest/Nash to the bench from time to time to keep them fresh in the long run and avoid freak accidents/injuries. And the bench should take it as an opportunity for the team & themselves.

  23. San Diego NBA says:

    With Nash in the game the tempo will be up a notch. My only worry is there wasn’t enough time for the team to gel. Training camp is a must!

  24. emmanuel says:

    im a laker fan but to fine who said the warriors will fall im not sure about that marc jackson has them playing very good and they have a great bench and stephen curry and andrew bogut still isnt playing so when he comes back they could get better

  25. michaelmartinez608 says:

    If the Lakers could figure out who they are . . . They could content for a championship. They have too much talented size down low, and I know if looks like the NBA has changed with more speed and athleticism, but close playoff games still come down to stops and rebounds and like I said, the Lakers have the personal to do it. You thunder and Heat fans better pray they stay confused.

  26. GoLA says:

    D’Antoni is trying to solve all the lakers’ problem by letting Nash play the entire game for the rest of the season. If he does not know how to integrate the big men of the lakers in his system, then how was he the perfect coach to be hired. He is putting odd combinations on the floor, that is why he has some defensive problems. If he has a problem with his defense then he should look at the players that he is putting on the floor. This is the effect of his offense driven system. A system that the Knicks are playing. The laker players are not three point artist or shooters. The lakers are special with their big men, but they are not utilized most of the time. If he can’t figure out how to use them with Kobe, then the lakers need to wait for the right players to be hired, about three years. That is just for not having problems, it does not mean that it would win the Championship.

  27. Malex says:

    The Lakers WILL make the playoffs you screwballs.

  28. SupaKnick says:

    You all are missing a very key point. The Lakers have absolutely NO BENCH! Championship? LOL They probably won’t even make the playoffs. The West is wayyyy too stacked for them to even compete. There won’t be any key trades to teams that are already set, only trades between teams that have no chance. Laker fans…you had your run..it’s over

  29. ANTONIO says:

    LEBRON JAMES IS THE COLDEST BASKETBALL PLAYER IN THE WORLD

    • Go NETS!! says:

      coldest as in dead cold? he’s definitely not a great player and no one can ever tell. Great player don’t need to go to a GREAT team to be great. He would’ve proven he’s great had he gone to just a good team and makes them great. If he were to compare to MJ, you have to compare to MJ’s possible championship rings when he plays on the same team with someone at least like Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson. MJ woud’ve gotten 12 rings by the time he retired. Charles Barkley says LBJ does everything well like MJ but he’s bigger and stronger… Bigger and stronger doesn’ mean a thing. A win is a win. It’s not like LBJ can run over ppl everything w/o getting a offensive charge. MJ can easily gets around you or jump over you! he’s is quicker. LBJ is faster but he not as quick due to his size. In fact, LBJ will slow down sooner in his bball lifespan bc he will have to carry around all those weights. Just wait till he gets a major injury and have to sit out for a season or so. His weight will catch up so quick that he’ll have a hard time losing them

  30. ANTONIO says:

    DWIGHT HOWARD GOES HARD IN THE PAINT

  31. ANTONIO says:

    LAKERS KOBE BRYANT IS SWEET AS HEAK

  32. Fine says:

    Everyone who is worried don’t be. As fast as the lakers will improve with Nash won’t even compare to how the warriors, t wolves and rockets will fall in the standings. We’ve seen these types of weak teams in the past start off well then still end up near the lottery. Are you really believing the warriors? Thought so. Nash is going to kill it. Less turnovers means less transition and more half court d resulting in way less points in the paint. All the lakes need to do is make it to the middle of the pack. No one will want to play them in the playoffs.

  33. Junior says:

    Lakers wont make the playoffs unless they get phil back

  34. trevor says:

    The thunder will not win the Lakers are going all the way. My prediction is Lakers vs heat for the finals . merry Christmas to every one and have a happy holidays.

    • Go NETS!! says:

      what season are you talking about? 2014 when LBJ joins DH? surely the 38yo Nash is not gonna make the Lakers good enough to beat the Thunder.

  35. Lakers and Knicks trade says:

    Trade pau gasol for Amare, Shumpert, and Novak.
    This is a perfect trade for both teams!

    • Go NETS!! says:

      oh, might as well say trade Gasol to the Heat for LBJ, D wade, Bosh, and Allen! It’s not that much but it’s almost there…

  36. erwin says:

    I just wish they make it to the playoffs……

  37. Rapsadidoydi says:

    Before the season started, lakers fans said that it will be Heat-Lakers in the finals….but now, lakers fans are so worried about it that lakers might not be able to make it in the playoffs. I even heard Metta said…they aiming for 73-9 record…so crazy!

  38. RS says:

    Needing defense, the Lakers go out and trade for the best defensive Center in the league; yet when they don’t have instant gratification, all of LA cry like babies, demand coaching changes and more trades to make things better (okay, unfair to say ‘all’ since the half that aren’t bitchin’ simply traded jerseys for that *other* LA team). Not to mention they already have MWP AND Kobe, two of the game’s toughest defensive stoppers at their position… what more do they want? +10 bonus Wins at the start of the season so they’re a lock to make the Playoffs? Well… Tough. Parity’s a bitch and she’s here to stay. Get used to it.

    Sincerely, Dubs fan since the 80s aka, You don’t even *know* the meaning of ‘tough times.’

  39. dj rgm9 says:

    I hope that D’Antoni rotate intelligently with all the roster together,even with Sacre in case for some foul troubles.He said the ho gonna using Hill between Gasol&Howard.Nobody has to play 48min. completly even Kobe thus.The bench has stepped up last games with especialy Meeks( strong defencly,very tenacious,3point shooter),Ebanks,Darius,Duhon.A good rotation with bench&Nash.Enough resting between the game is very important for Nash now especial the first games comming.I’ts gonna be heavy fighting into the next part of the regular season,that’s for sure!!!

  40. KOBE! says:

    Please lakes get your ish togeather and do so fastt im a die hard laker fan but damn is it hard to support right now

    • Go NETS! says:

      you’re not a die hard Lakers fan if you cant show the support right now. this is when you use the term “dying hard” but they’re not dead yet. If they’re dead and you’re still a fan then you can call yourself a “die hard” fan. They still got a lot more games and can still make the playoffs!

  41. Goku says:

    I smell first round exit!

    • Go NETS! says:

      there’s always one team that exit the first round foo! so of course you smell it. But it sure wont be the Lakers!

  42. dj rgm9 says:

    Nash can only boost up the offence part not the defence side in the game.The Lakers need a defence minded coach not specific offense kind like D’ANTONI.D’Antoni is praying right now to reaching above 500%mark(every game in fact).
    I hope the players taking care a lot about theyr defence seriously because it’s time now not to lose anymore & long streak of games winning from now on.Getting theyr grip back on the chamionship starting tommorow against the Knickerbockers,we need to see the GRINTA FROM THE LAKERS!!!

  43. comrade24 says:

    The Lakers are going to have an uphill battle even once Nash returns. Howard isn’t 100% yet, and Nash may not be in his normal basketball shape for awhile either. I do like the thought of starting Meeks at the 2 and moving Kobe to the three. Meeks is an undersized guard, but defensively he’s tenacious and works hard on every play. I think he fits into the D’Antoni offensive scheme better than World Peace did in the starting lineup. They’ll have an extra shooter to spread the floor which should open the lane up for Howard and Gasol and give them some easier buckets. Previously, the defense was able to pack the paint and take what World Peace would give them. Now, the defense will think twice about sinking in too far and allowing Meeks an open three.

    In looking at the Lakers season so far, it seems pretty obvious to me that the Lakers biggest defensive struggle has originated on the offensive end. The Lakers are an older team, therefore not the quickest to get back on defense after a missed shot and especially after a turnover. The turnovers are killing the Lakers. 29th in the league and right around 19 turnovers a game is just not going to cut it against the likes of Okc, Clippers, and Spurs. The Lakers defense has been much better in the half court set. There are still some communication issues they’ll have to address, but it also seems like when the Lakers are clicking on the offensive end, their defense dramatically improves. Nash, as ironic as it sounds, may be the savior for the Lakers defense as well. Not that Nash is a lock down defender, anything but actually, but for this Lakers team a good offense builds their confidence and transfers over to the defensive end. I’m also certain this Lakers roster is not the same group we’ll see come April and May. It seems like they’re gearing up for some big changes on the bench, and they also need to determine what to do with Pau Gasol. A decent stretch 4 like Ryan Anderson and a few new faces in the backcourt could potentially make all the difference for the struggling Lakers.

    • purpngold says:

      You make some good points, I also agree that their offense will energize the defense, specially when Nash comes back. If the Lakers make it to the playoffs however, Im not so sure that they can win a 7 game series against the Spurs, Clips, or OKC. Defense wins championships, and that is the Lakers biggest weakness. The Lakers have to get into that mindset, coaching has to find a way to get everyone to play with intensity and think defense first.

      • abisan says:

        Gasol for STAT. It’s a win-win situation for both teams about player contracts, playing systems, etc,

  44. kim says:

    i think it’s stupid for metta to come off the bench without even trying to put him in the line-up with steve nash when he’s back. first see how that goes, then you can shift things around. gosh i wish jim buss wasnt such a nut and hired phil instead

  45. Latin says:

    The Lakers should consider both nash and Gasol off the bench and use them to run pick and rolls.

  46. Someone says:

    actually Nash’s return will make the Lakers a lot better…heck it might even improve them defensively because the offense will run better, the turnovers will be limited and the opponents won’s have as many opportunities for transition points…Lakers are terrible in transition defense but they’re not nearly as bad in halfcourt defense

    • Go NETS! says:

      you’re exactly right. Nash can run around and wear them out. he can drain their energy and make them sloppy on their offense, missiing shots. which automatically makes the Lakers defense better!

  47. Jaylen says:

    Can’t wait for Nash… Just be prepared for a crucial and very effective high pick-n-roll. Then maybe some of those easy buckets will transfer to some much needed defense!!!

  48. Arup says:

    The defence wouldn’t be a problem when the Lakers have three great defensive players like Howard, Kobe and MWP. Kobe is not playing defence because he is handling the ball most of the time and playing 40-44 minutes. Once Nash is back he can concentrate on defense and Lakers would improve defensively. Lakers only problem would be how D’Antoni would use Gasol. In Chicago Phil Jackson didn’t have a good center but when he joined Lakers he had Shaq so Phil had to adjust and won five championships, that shows how great a coach Phil is. If D’Antoni can’t adjust Lakers wouldn’t win a championship and he would be fired.

  49. Mo says:

    I fear the Lakers might not make the playoffs. Their next 10 games are: @Golden State, vs. Knicks, @Nuggets, vs. Blazers, vs. Sixers, @Clippers, vs. Nuggets, @Houston, @Spurs, vs. Thunder. That’s a tough stretch and as they try to gel the team with Nash I can easily see them going 3-7 for those 10 games. That would put them at 15-21. You would expect a team to need at least 45 wins to make the playoffs in a stacked western conference, so they would need to go at least 30-16 from there. It’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out.

    • lakersfan says:

      Lets stop Panicquing to soon, we will be ok and will make the playoffs.

      • Go NETS! says:

        they can do it if they pull of a some kind of trade to improve their bench depth ant athleticism. but they wont succeed if they have to do that by giving away Gasol. They should try to get Odom back. He’s a good bench and another almost 7-footer on the team. He’ll get his energy back and play well again.

      • LAKERS B says:

        yes! no matter what…go lakers, we are not hungry of champ.

    • Go NETS! says:

      they can also do it if they play with the sense of urgency and with energy. Make their opponent SPEND energy to when guarding them. The guys without the ball have to play with their opponent’s minds by making them decide whether they can help double team the ball handler or by guarding you. Standing around waiting for the ball to get into your hands won’t work, and that also makes it too easy for the other team to play defense. gotta drain their energy so they miss shot. drain it by making them play defense they way they dont want to play!

      • Go NETS! says:

        this is what i called your offense helps your defense. If you can drain their energy while playing offense, they’ll be tired when it’s their turn to play offense so it’s easier for your defense. Bottom line, do not STAND AROUND! I hate to pay a lot of money to go to the Lakers games to see they’re standing around. You can still spread the floor by running around, as long as you don’t run into each other and stay at one spot!

      • Go NETS! says:

        btw..I don’t mean just randomly running around like a fool.. There are many players on the Lakers team that have high bbal IQ. I’m sure they’ll figure out. If they keep moving on their feet someone will be open and that makes it easier for everyone to be a facilitator. I’d say, If a play doesn’t happen within 7 seconds, that means your opponent know which play you’re trying to run, or their defense is stopping you, so the Lakers should run into another play right away. Standing around and waiting for Nash or Kobe to make a play is not going to get them a title!