Feb 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Lakers defeated the Sixers 112-98. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers: Faces Rolling Back Into Rotation

The four game stretch against Western Conference brutes — San Antonio and Oklahoma City — has finally concluded, with the Los Angeles Lakers nearly coming up empty.

1-3 in the four straight meetings with the two conference leaders probably isn’t what we expected.  If you’re totally ashamed of the season and how things have transpired since the $48.5 million guy went down in December, it’s alright to admit you expected four losses.

The Spurs found a thrill in allowing their bench to embarrass Los Angeles in two straight games, along the veteran Tony Parker pouring 25 points on the Lakers in Wednesday’s 125-109 defeat at Staples Center.

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March 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) controls the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you want an honest opinion, the level of compassion for this Lakers team — if there’s any at all with them sitting 23 games below .500 — died after Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets sucker punched the Hollywood crowd on Feb. 19.

Steve Blake was traded that night, leaving Kobe Bryant disgruntled, and two new pieces (Kent Bazemore, MarShon Brooks) were brought along for the circus rest of the way.  Since then, the Lakers have went 4-9, allowing 119 points per game during the 13 contests.  While you could heavily argue Philadelphia’s defense is worse, you can’t get over the fact that each team knows they can now feast on the 16-time champions.  It’s been a while since that opportunity has been open, but the Lakers aren’t doing a single thing to stop the battering.

15 games remain, and the “lost season” is now fading further into the shadows.

Suddenly, fans wish they could hit the fast forward button to May 20th’s Draft Lottery, which will determine their selection order in the pool of players making the most noise we’ve heard since 2003.

Before the season comes to a bitter close, however, Mike D’Antoni will have even more rotation adjustments to make.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that 40-year-old Steve Nash will be returning to game action Friday evening when the Lakers take on the Washington Wizards.  In the last two seasons, Nash has been through more negative health issues than he’s ever dealt with in his 18-year career.  After re-aggravating his left leg against Chicago on Feb. 9, Nash tried to give it a go two days later vs. Utah, but could only play 17 minutes due to pain.

Nash has experienced the same nerve root irritation problems with his leg and back since this offseason, and we’re never going to forget Grantland’s outstanding documentary on the 2-time MVP’s uncertain future.

Should Nash even suit up for the remainder of the season?

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Feb 5, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10) talks with Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Anthony Bennett (left) and power forward Tristan Thompson after the Lakers

He’s going to …. but we don’t know how long that will last.  Every time Nash is set to return and feeling back in the basketball groove, a setback slashes his luck and sits him right back on the bench, or to the training room.

Nash is the best point guard option for this team (of what’s on the roster), regardless of the personnel surrounding him.  He put those questions to rest on his 40th birthday, when Los Angeles traveled to Philadelphia after the foul-out debacle vs. Cleveland.  Nash scored 19 points and handed out five assists on 8-of-15 shooting, in 28 minutes of play.  The craft, ability to get to the cup, and 50-40-90 style shooting touch are aspects of his game that will never fade, until he retires.  Nevertheless, his ability to defend, keep up with any other starting point guard, and play pick-and-roll with a prominent big are all in the past.

It’s just one viewpoint, but Nash should not be stepping on the court during these last 15 games.  That’s not going to stop the future Hall-of-Famer, and you have to respect the will-power to prove doubters wrong.  Father time is not defeated by Nash, but he’s not going down just because the basketball world is telling him to. 

But, you tell me …. what is the central point in returning for the final three weeks of the season?

To risk another accidental tweak to the leg, or awkward landing for the ailing back?  To re-develop a rhythm and fight to win games, just to avoid finishing last in the Western Conference?

Cross both of those out, emphatically.

While each time he’s went down has provided Nash with thoughts on how to adjust his game, the remaining schedule is too much to throw at him right away.  Nash should use the time between now and the start of the 2014-15 regular season to intensively train and actually prepare himself to take on his final 82-game grind.  Of course, that’s far-fetched, he probably wouldn’t play a full schedule even at max health.  There’s too many dinks and dents in the body for that at this point.  But, in essence, next season is more monumental.  It means more than these final 15 games, which the Lakers are actually supposed to tank away …. correct?

It does nobody any good for Nash to re-join the team during this final train wreck, which will include meetings against seven playoff teams in the month of April.  Unless, the front office is deciding to use the stretch provision clause on his contract, which would end his tenure in Los Angeles and ultimately, his career.  That’s the only circumstance Nash’s Friday return should be based on, and nothing else.

We comprehend that he’s a competitor and likely was chomping at the bit to return, but currently as one of three Lakers under guaranteed contract next season, Nash and team doctors might want to consider what’s ahead for Bryant’s return next season.

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Jan 7, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Nick Young (0) and shooting guard Wesley Johnson (11) and center Jordan Hill (27) wait for play to resume against the Dallas Mavericks during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 110-97. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Joining Nash back into the rotation for D’Antoni will be Nick Young, and Jordan Hill.  ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin reported that both bench assets will be available for use in Friday’s meeting with Randy Wittman‘s Wizards.

Young, who was a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year before falling to a non-displaced fracture of the patella and bone bruise in his left knee, is the one Laker that has been itching to get back into the mix.  Besides Bryant’s fierce and fiery passion on the court, Young is the next in line for hyping the energy level.  With his emotion on offense, and “have fun” mentality throughout each and every game, it was hard not to enjoy the make-up of this team when everyone was healthy and intact.

Fully expected to use his player option and test the free agent market, Young has been on record saying that he admires Bryant’s game, and Los Angeles as a place to call home.  Nothing would make him happier than to remain a Laker for next year’s go-around, but looking for larger financial benefits may hurt his chances.  It’s all dependent upon whether Mitch Kupchak wants to head down that road or not, and spend money even though it’s not summer 2015.  That’s when the checks start paying a “Love-ly” amount of dough.  For these final 15 games, the best option for Swaggy P is to continue to entertain with his tactics, and possibly audition for a new destination in 2014-15.

Jordan Hill, who hasn’t hit the court since Feb. 28 due to a sore right knee, will actually return as another big hits the injured list.  D’Antoni’s favorite member of the doghouse, Chris Kaman, is set to have an MRI to evaluate a sore foot, and hasn’t played since the start of March.  In February, Kaman averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 52 percent from the field, but D’Antoni’s principle of small ball rotations kicked the 7-footer to the curb.

Hollywood is the land that never gets dull.

Between the mourning of Phil Jackson‘s departure, the excitement of injury returns, or Kobe Bryant giving a death stare in Thursday’s team photo ….. I’d say the city is full of emotion at the moment.

 

 

Tags: Chris Kaman Jordan Hill Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Mike D'Antoni Nick Young Steve Nash

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