After shredding the film reels of the last two seasons and shoveling them into the furnace to never be viewed again, production on a brand new film is in the works for the Los Angeles Lakers. Grander than anyone ever envisioned. On the set are a few of the usual suspects. Kobe Bryant leans against the wall, reflecting on the incomplete script he has been given, wondering how it all comes to an end. Directly in front of him Pau Gasol chit-chats about philosophy and reflects on the "zen" days of Phil Jackson. All in spanish, mind you. In the back of Kobe's mind he registers this conversation and he nods in agreement solely out of politeness, but you can see the detachment from the discussion. Somewhere,
Ron Artest Metta World Peace is babbling nonsensically about how in this new flick they're filming, the Lakers are like the Ghostbusters and Mike Brown is Slimer. And where's Dwight Howard, the new lead actor and fresh face in this tale? Ah, there he is, buried in a sea of media, just as he has been since touching down in Hollywood. Off in the distance, the bench players recite their lines to one another, acting out the scenes they have been assigned to. Hopeful extras in the movie anxious to nail their small two-minute cameos, eager for their big break to finally materialize. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family look on at the pandemonium, the lack of synergy and direction amongst the cast in the blockbuster they're attempting to put together evident. They take a deep breath and let out a sigh, knowing the challenge this will be. But, the show must go on. Suddenly, Mike Brown bursts through the doors, out of breath.
And "he" walks onto the set for the first time. The man approaches Mike Brown and puts his hand on Brown's shoulder.
"I got this."
And without another word he begins his descent into the chaos. Each step he takes down the steel stairwell clanks loudly, yet those below are far too enveloped in their own world to take notice. Finally on the ground level, he is up close and personal with the circus of personalities and agendas he must juggle. It has to be this way though. It has to be him. He was made for this. Now in the middle of the room, he takes his fingers up to his mouth and lets out a piercing whistle.
"QUIET ON THE SET"
Yes, Steve Nash stands at the center of this new Lakers group, and he has everyone's attention. He may be past his prime days where he was gathering Most Valuable Player accolades with the Phoenix Suns, but the player that Nash is isn't about individual awards. It is his uncanny ability to be the pulse of his team-- the equalizer that brings balance and clarity. The pressure that comes with the responsibility of being the point guard for this Lakers squad is a task a scarce amount of players could undertake. Nash is one of the select few who can take control of the Lakers and make it work. Whatever it takes, he will meld and mold this motley crew, and bring out every last drop of potential. His heart may never pump purple and gold blood, but beautiful basketball is in every stitch of his soul, and being a part of this talented group gives him access every tool he could have ever asked for on the basketball court. A truly dominant big man to run the pick and roll with and erase his defensive shortcomings, a fellow maestro power forward to help manage the orchestra, a feisty defender and team enforcer, and Kobe Bryant. His years of battling uphill under the flag of the Phoenix Suns are over. His hard work and dedication have paid off. This is all yours now, Steve Nash. He is unquestionably a first ballot hall of famer, but this is a chance at true basketball immortality.
With the talent at hand, hitting the ground running may be as simple as plug and play for Nash and company. However, the level of execution needed to reach the top for the Lakers is going to take time. With the newly implemented Princeton principles still in the infancy stages, the offense is still a work in progress. The cast is still learning the script and defining their roles. The Lakers are reinventing the wheel for one last shot with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, while mustering all the incentive they can dig up for Dwight Howard to stay with the Lakers long term. At the heart of all of this, Nash will have to find a way to balance the flow of the game on his shoulders while it slowly comes together. The ball, and even more importantly, the offense is in his hands. Yes, the Princeton offense may take that leather Spalding sphere out of his possession, but there is no need to panic. Mike Brown has made it clear from the beginning, and reiterated many times since, that Steve Nash will be his quarterback. He will have pick and roll opportunities every time down the court, as he should, because the Nash-Dwight pick and roll is going to abuse those poor unfortunate rims. But the Lakers mustn't be a one trick pony, and they have a stable full of stallions. Nash will have audibles to sort through each time down the court; options to slice and dice the opponent with to keep them off balance.
How many point guards can take total control of the offensive flow for a lineup like the Lakers will be trotting out? Three, maybe? Ramon Sessions couldn't manage the role, and this was before Dwight was in at center, and without an intricate offensive blueprint to master. He opted out knowing the Lakers likely would have found a way to flip him as a trade asset. As his time with Los Angeles came to an end it was apparent he was only a temporary answer to a complex question. Sessions revealed as much to Marc Spears recently, and while money and a long term deal may have been motive to backing out of the final year on his contract, his stance regarding an uncertain future is understandable. This is the Lakers, masters of trading Hot Pockets for four-course gourmet meals.
"It was one of those situations I looked at like, 'If I do come back what if they trade me?' " Sessions said. "There were talks about getting Deron. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it's my contract year? It was one of those things that I can't say if I opted in, [Nash] wouldn't have come. They still might have tried to get him. You just never know."
You just never know with the Lakers. But, one thing is certain, they came away with the four-course meal yet again; basketball royalty always eats well. Steve Nash is a perfect fit for the Lakers, not only with the ball in his hands and as an off-ball operator, but as a leader and teammate. What made Magic Johnson one of the greatest leaders and players of all time wasn't just his ability to play basketball. It was the bonds he forged with his teammates, the connection the fans could make with him, and the way he carried himself away from the hardwood. All qualities that Nash has always exemplified. Still, as easy as playing the game of basketball may come for Nash, managing a team filled with the talents at his disposal won't be simple. There are only 24 seconds on the shot-clock and the man running the offense, Steve Nash, will need to know what he intends to do each possession to get the most out of his teammates. By the time the ball crosses the half-court line, there will be roughly 19 seconds left to orchestrate the symphony. Run a pick and roll to probe the defense? Mark off another 5 seconds off the clock. Audible into an off-ball play with the remaining 14 seconds that gets Nash an open look at the elbow (as seen here from Forum Blue and Gold) and dash away another 6 seconds, leaving 8 fleeting seconds to find a way to put the ball in the basket. The point guard to lead the Lakers to victory will have to be assertive, talented, and an unquestioned leader amongst his peers. Steve Nash will be all of those for the Lakers.
Finding the recipe for success will begin, and end, with the choices Nash makes to start every Lakers possession. The offense will be organic, but basketball is still a game of making the right decisions. Having Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant gives Steve Nash three premium players to work the ball to, while also making it difficult for defenses to key in on the sharpshooter and layup magician. Making the right basketball decision on every possession is an impossible bar to vault over, but Nash has a sixth-sense for these types of things. It's what makes him Steve Nash. Having to choose which surgical tool to make his incisions with may be difficult, but make no mistake, this is a good problem to have. This isn't the challenge his predecessor Ramon Sesssions faces; having to find ways to involve Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullens, and Ben Gordon. Still, with the only satisfactory outcome for the next two seasons ending with parades through the streets of Los Angeles, Nash has his work cut out for him. This is all a tall order for the 38 year old point guard. It won't be easy, this can all go terribly wrong, but having a floor general in Nash to be the guiding light gives the Lakers the best chance possible at adding another star at center court of Staples Center. Number 18, the star that will finally push the Lakers ahead of the Boston Celtics. No pressure, Nash. None at all.
Impromptu and without fear, Steve Nash gets the cameras rolling. This is what he does. He works on the fly and gets it done. True silver screen enchantment. His teammates may have only been concerned with existing on their own private islands beforehand, but it's time for worlds to collide, and everyone is in for an awakening. These aren't just any teammates though, this is the best damn group that's ever been assembled for Nash to work with. They're all learning the script, it now comes down to working through it together. As a unified group. Kobe diverting from the script too drastically? There's Steve, popping in and getting the scene back on track. Dwight stuck on a key line? Nash will push him to it and through it. Pau Gasol having a hard time finding his role? This is your part, Pau, Nash will get you back on track. And there's Metta World Peace ready to burst when it's finally his turn to go. Bottled up like a jack-in-the-box longing to for the crank to be turned. Steve Nash will be ready to set him free when his time comes.
Here's to breaking box office records and sweeping the Oscars, and not leaving shredded hopes on the cutting room floor again.