Photo Credit: Ron Sombilon Media
There’s been a surprising bit of negative talk about Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash lately.
Everyone’s talking about how he’s lost a step or how he’s past his prime or how he’ll be turning into a role player within the next few years. I just don’t get it. Look, the guy is 39. He’s going to decline a little bit because, contrary to popular belief, he is human. But as anyone who has watched Nash this year knows, rumors of his demise are being greatly exaggerated.
For one thing, Nash’s shooting is as strong as ever. He’s on pace to have yet another season where he shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Nash has done this an astonishing four times in his career and doing it again at the age of 39 would be an amazing accomplishment.
In recent weeks, Nash has thrived from taking a more active role in the Lakers shooting game. The brief period where Kobe Bryant passed the ball more and Nash played a variation of a two-guard has come and gone, but Nash has still been more willing to take shots than he was when he first came to the lineup and so far, it’s been working well. He’s the best shooter the Lakers have and when he takes a few more shots, things tend to work out.
But why is everyone focusing on the negatives in Nash’s game?
It likely has something to do with the Lakers’ record. If the Lakers were the dominant force everyone thought they were going to be in the offseason, no one would care that Nash isn’t quite as agile as he used to be. We’d simply be praising his excellent shooting and talking about how much it helped the Lakers to acquire a point guard of his caliber.
Instead, the Lakers have been the biggest disappointment in the league, which causes us to focus our attention on the negatives. We watch Nash struggle to make the little moves that were cake to him during his time with the Phoenix Suns and we say that he’s on his way out.
This isn’t really fair to Nash, though; slightly slower or not, he’s still having an extremely great year, and while the Lakers are still struggling, you can bet they’d be a far worse team if Chris Duhon was still handling things at the point.
Now, has Nash declined a little bit? Yes. He’s not making the kind of “oh-my-goodness-how-did-he-do-that” sort of passes that marked his peak years with the Suns and he doesn’t move quite as quickly as he used to, either.
That hasn’t stopped him from being extremely effective, however. In addition to being a great shooter, Nash is also one of the smartest players the NBA has ever seen. When he’s on his game, his court vision is matched only by Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. Nash has still done a fine job running the show for the Lakers this year, often setting up Pau Gasol and Earl Clark for uncontested jumpers. The way he can predict where players will be before they get there is amazing and a huge part of why he’s still been able to be extremely effective, even as his athleticism has decreased.
At some point, Nash will reach a stage where he can no longer be an effective starting point guard. That’s just how the aging process works. When that time comes, I expect him to have an effective run as a role player, similar to what Jason Kidd has done for the New York Knicks this season. In the meantime, Nash is still a great player, even if he was a bit better back in 2006. He is still an excellent shooter and an excellent decision maker. Just because he’s finally showing some signs of wear-and-tear doesn’t mean we should take all the wonderful things he does for granted.
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