The Most Important Laker Game of the Season

Tonight is.

It’s not just that Steve Nash is back, it’s 1) IS he back? and 2) Will he make a difference?

Our pre-game answers are maybe and probably not.

As to the first question, Nash suffered an injury that was significantly more serious than the team said or that fans realized. He’s back in uniform and will be on the court tonight, but is he really recovered, and at 38, is he at reasonable strength and in shape to play to his career level and to NBA standards? That will be answered soon enough, by both how he plays and how long he plays. If he plays more than 24 minutes, it will be a major achievement. How he plays is the next issue.



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As we’ve said, the team has major problems, most of which Nash cannot solve. Getting him back will do nothing to help the team’s defensive shortcomings. Under ex-coach Mike Brown, the team played terrible defense. Under future ex-coach Mike D’Antoni, the team plays no defense. Nash will not change that. The most telling statement about the teams’ disdain for defense is what D’Antoni recently told sportswriter TJ Simers, when asked about improving the team’s defense. D’Antoni responded by telling Simers that just the previous day the team had spent a full 30 minutes of practice time working on defense.

Really?

It is not overstatement, and certainly no joke, when we say the team is playing no defense as to playing bad defense, and that is the way the coach wants it, spending his practice time on offense, with game strategy clearly to be to try to out score the opponent, rather than making any attempt to keep the opponent FROM scoring. Just wait until Nash tries to guard Stephen Curry or heaven forbid, 6’7″ Klay Thompson on a switch or three.

The Lakers’ second major shortcoming, the bench, will be aided slightly by Nash’s return, adding a decent, though decrepit, player to the starting lineup, and pushing a now former starter back to the bench. But, with the only other NBA-caliber point guard on the roster, Steve Blake, still injured, now having both Chris Duhon and Darius Morris on the bench is no actual depth, under any stretch of the imagination. The bench still is worse than terrible, is still the worst bench in the NBA, and any improvement by Nash returning will be minimal.

So, will Nash make a difference? In running the team, in running the fast break, in ball movement, yes. In turning a bad team into a good team that can compete with the league’s best, not by virtue of a 38-year-old Nash coming back from a serious injury, despite his history running the D’Antoni system.

And don’t be fooled by the Lakers’ three-game winning streak. Of these three games, two were against two of the league’s absolute worst teams. Somehow, the Lakers’ managed to beat the 3-21 Wizards by six points and the 7-19 Bobcats by one. These wins were NOTHING to be proud of. They should similarly NOT be proud of also beating Philadelphia, a generally good team when at full strength, but who was playing not only without Andrew Bynum, but also without their other best player, Jrue Holiday.

So, tonight I expect to see the Lakers’ take the court with renewed optimism, and if Nash is healthy enough to play well at the start, the team will get off to a quick lead against Golden State. But, as the game goes on, the Warriors overall offensive talent and deep bench will take its toll, and easily end the Lakers’ illusionary winning streak.

If will take much more than a a 38-year-old Steve Nash to turn the Lakers’ into a team that can compete with the NBA’s best.

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