NBA PM: Nash: Lakers Are Right For Dwight
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Steve Nash: Lakers Are Right For Dwight Howard
The 2012-13 season mercifully came to an end for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday as they were swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. At the beginning of the season the possibility that this stacked Lakers team would go out in the first round was laughable, virtually impossible. But, injuries hit the team so hard that for the last two games of the season instead of starting Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in the backcourt like they originally planned, they started second-round picks Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris.
The first order of business will be scouting for the 2013 NBA Draft, where the Lakers will have two selections in the second round. They already traded away their first-round pick and would have to complete another deal to get back in it. However, the draft has always been a small part of the Lakers’ blueprint for success. Where they’ve traditionally done the bulk of their work is in free agency and the trade market.
All future plans center around Dwight Howard for the Lakers. He may not have had the kind of year they were expecting from him this season, but he is still the player they want to build around in the future. They believe he can eventually be one of the greats whose jersey hangs from the rafters along with the likes of Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and the other all-timers who donned the purple and gold.
The Lakers aren’t going to be the only team in pursuit of Howard, though. He’s going to have several other teams making max offers, albeit for one less year than what the Lakers can offer. The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks are all geared up to make a run at Howard, but Lakers guard Steve Nash thinks he’s already where he needs to be.
Nash has seen just about everything in his 17 years in the league. He’s been a part of contending and rebuilding teams. With all he’s experienced, he’s about as good of a resource Howard could ask for as he enters his long awaited ride through free agency.
“I’m very hopeful that Dwight will be back,” Nash said at his season-ending press conference. “I think this is the place for him. He’s in the prime of his career, with his best years ahead of him. Playing for one of the greatest franchises in sports and an amazing city. I hope he sees it that way and hopefully as teammates we can be there to support him and find [him] back with us July 1.
“I think Dwight and myself formed a good relationship this year. It think Dwight was a good presence throughout the year. We had our moments. We faced a lot of difficulty, tough times. I think relationships were formed, kept, developed and were positive.”
What could end up being a major factor in Howard’s decision-making process is whether or not Mike D’Antoni is kept on as head coach. D’Antoni’s first year with the Lakers was tumultuous and there has been rumblings that he and Howard may not see eye to eye, but he still has Nash backing him.
“We could look at a long list of what he faced this year, coming in late, craziest injury season I’ve ever seen, the personalities, guys playing not like themselves, not 100 percent,” Nash said. “It was hard to find an identity because guys weren’t who they were going to be in a week. We wanted more, I thought he handled it. He competed, work every day. He was passionate about it. In February, March and April we played really god basketball.”
If given another year, Nash expects D’Antoni’s performance, and everyone else’s for that matter, to be notably better.
“I think it’s inevitable the roster is going to change in some capacity,” Nash said. “It does every year in the NBA. I think the core pieces obviously with this season under our belt, the disappointment of this season as well could come back and for something special. So, there’s a lot to play for and work for. I think you saw this year it’s not a perfect fit but that doesn’t mean we don’t have great pieces and players who can find a way to make this work.”
We’ll have to just wait and see what the Lakers team that tries to bounce back from this horrendous season next year looks like. One near certainty is that Nash will definitely be back, though, and he has hopes of being fully healthy within a month.
“For me, first and foremost, I just want to get in great shape and be healthy,” Nash said. “I want to get back so I can prepare for next season. As a team it’s going to take some time. Not only do we have to find an identity, but we also have to find out what the roster is going to look like. It takes time.”
NBA Draft Next For Glen Rice Jr.: After getting dismissed from Georgia Tech last year due to an incident off the court, Glen Rice Jr. opted to keep his draft eligibility intact and play in the D-League rather than entering the 2012 NBA Draft or playing overseas. He was solid during the regular season, putting up a very respectable 13 points and six rebounds a game for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The Vipers, an affiliate of the Houston Rockets, had one of the most talented teams in the league all year long. The Rockets used them frequently to develop their rookies and toward the end of the season they lost Andrew Goudelock, the league’s MVP. However, when Goudelock departed Rice stepped up and shined in a lead role.
The Vipers swept through the D-League playoffs, winning six straight and 16 overall to close out the year. In the playoffs Rice averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists a contest. He now has his first championship under his belt, a nice feat to accomplish as he gets set for one of the most important stretches of his life.
“It feels great,” Rice said to HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve never won a championship before, I don’t even know this feeling. It’s a great feeling to finally win a championship.
“When guys like Goudelock got called up, we just stuck together and figured out what we needed to do to fill in his role. I think we did an excellent job at it.”
As Rice gets prepped to start working out for teams, he feels like he really benefited more from playing in the D-League than he would have if he stayed at Georgia Tech for his junior season.
“The competition was a lot different,” Rice said. “With this team I had a lot of good guys to practice with all day every day. There was a lot of competition. Everyone wants to get to the NBA and this is the next best thing.”
NBA teams scout the D-League heavily throughout the year, so they are already very familiar with Rice, but there’s something else he wants them to know that they may not have been able to take away from his play on the court.
“I just want to everyone to know I’m going to work hard no matter where I’m at,” Rice said. “Even if I’m not getting playing time I’m going to come in and do whatever is asked of me. I want to fit in with whatever role the coach has for me”