There aren’t many Lakers fans that remember the time Steve Nash spent in purple and gold very fondly. We were told when the team completed a sign-and-trade for him and subsequently added All-NBA center Dwight Howard in a separate deal that “this is going to be fun.”
In reality, it was anything but.
No one got to experience the brunt of that more than Nash. With the hated Dwight Howard departing the following summer in free agency and the untouchable and uncriticizable Kobe Bryant mostly injured and missing for the remainder of Nash’s tenure, it was Nash who bore the brunt of the vitriol from Lakers fans during his final seasons with the team before retiring when his contract ended in 2015.
But despite all that, Nash says he wouldn’t change a thing:
Steve Nash reflects on his days as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers: "It was an incredible experience and a disaster all at once" pic.twitter.com/mVQXlUx0MU— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) February 19, 2021
Look, Nash is never going to be a fan favorite. If that wasn’t cemented by the team constantly fighting to avoid giving up their protected lottery picks during their rebuilding years as a result of their trade for him, it certainly was when he admitted that he was only not retiring so he could get the remainder of the money the Lakers owed him. Even if he was right that no one in any other profession would do things any differently, it still hardly endeared him to the fanbase.
But it’s also worth remembering that none of what went wrong was Nash’s fault. It wasn’t his fault that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak offered him a three-year, $27 million deal when he was 37. It wasn’t his fault they offered draft picks to Phoenix for him, either. It’s not on Nash that his leg snapped during a freak collision with Damian Lillard during his second game as a Laker, leading to a cascade of injuries that even his legendarily meticulous prep routine couldn’t overcome and ultimately ended his career.
Nash did everything he physically could for the Lakers, including taking an epidural just to suit up for two games of a doomed playoff sweep in 2013. During his final season with the team, he mentored rookie guard Jordan Clarkson, and continued to work out with him and subsequent-rookie D’Angelo Russell even upon retirement. Nash may not have gotten a championship redemption tour like Dwight Howard, and things may not have worked out for him on the court, but it’s fair to assume that the experience Nash got as an off-court mentor may have jump-started his development path as a coach, a road he continued while working in player development with the Golden State Warriors and now as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
So between the money and the chance to grow, it’s easy to see why Nash doesn’t regret the way things went down. And given that the Lakers ultimately used the assets accumulated during their rebuild to make it out of the landslide that the Nash sign-and-trade kicked off to win a title last year, maybe they shouldn’t either. At least not too much. After all, everything worked out in the end, even if their first post-Nash acquisition title came about seven years later than they expected.