Just over two years ago, the Los Angeles Lakers sent four drafts picks to the Phoenix Suns for Steve Nash in what has turned out to be one of the worst trades in Lakers history. Nash then signed a three-year, $27 million deal that has tied the team’s hands since pen touched paper.
Nash broke his leg months after joining the team in a collision with Damian Lilliard of the Portland Trailblazers and hasn’t recovered since, re-aggravating the injury several times along the way. In the two seasons since joining the Lakers, he has played a total of 65 games. His health this year will be one of the most important factors of the upcoming season.
Nash’s health is interesting on several levels. First, at the end of an illustrious career, it would be nice to see Nash showcase the magic that made him an MVP twice. Second, the Lakers’ first-round pick would go to Phoenix unless the Lakers are one of the five worst teams in the league. In that sense, it might actually serve the Lakers best if he is not healthy.
That being said, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers would be that bad this season. The roster is built to be a middling team that, if crazy hot, could contend for the last playoff spot in the wildly competitive Western Conference. In all likelihood, the Lakers will fall somewhere between those two scenarios, finish a couple spots outside of the playoffs and wind up having to send that draft pick to Phoenix.
So Lakers fans will likely have to grudgingly root for Nash to put together a healthy season and make what would be a miraculous push for the postseason.
Next, the experiment of pairing a legitimate point guard alongside Kobe Bryant needs to play out in one way or another. Bryant detractors attest that he needs the ball too much to work with a good point guard while his supporters maintain he is actually smart enough to make it work. If Nash is healthy, both sides can at least partially see what it might’ve looked like, small sample size notwithstanding.
Lastly, another way Nash can make good on his contract is to help develop Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson. Nash has repeatedly said he has no interest in coaching after his playing career but can definitely serve as a mentor this year.
Regardless of health, one can legitimately make the argument that Nash can impact this season as much as any other Laker on the roster. If unhealthy, his lack of production could lead to keeping a top-five draft pick. If healthy, he could set the stage for an entertaining season, if nothing else. The key for Nash has to be ending one of the league’s most illustrious careers on a high note. It’s what he, his fans and the game deserve.