Steve Nash reinventing himself for Lakers
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - If Steve Nash was at his wit’s end, despondent like legions of Lakers fans over this debacle of a season, it wasn’t evident Wednesday afternoon at the team’s practice facility.
The living basketball legend who was dressed more like a soccer player bound off the basketball floor and through the media room, wearing shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, low-top sneakers, and — most importantly — a smile.
“Diligently working on the craft,” he hollered at news reporters on hand before he was gone.
He might as well have been talking to himself.
Two-time MVPs aren’t typically asked to reinvent themselves, but 39-year-old Nash is doing just that for a Lakers team that has seven weeks to salvage its season and avoid the embarrassment of missing the playoffs. At 28-30 — and with those summertime proclamations of league-wide dominance seeming so far away now — they entered Wednesday three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The issues that have plagued this team have seemed endless, from the coaching change after just five games to talk of locker room strife between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard to injuries that helped derail what already was a teetering train.
And so, Nash — the Picasso of point guards, a masterful orchestrator of offenses — has been asked to change. He plays off the ball, watching Bryant take his old job for long stretches before he’s able to put his old hat on. He does what Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, his friend and longtime coach with the Phoenix Suns, has asked them all to do: sacrifice.
Since changing to this counter-intuitive style in a Jan. 25 win against the Utah Jazz, with Nash handling roughly half the playmaking duties he did before and his assist numbers during that time (5.5 a game) barely half his norm over the past eight seasons, the Lakers have won 11 of 16 games.
“His desire to figure out a way to make it work is remarkable,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “He’s always prodding, always making the sacrifice. … [For more on Steve Nash reinventing himself for Lakers, click here.]