Why Warriors Fans Should Expect Fewer 3s and More Wins Under Steve Kerr

The Golden State Warriors will be looking to take the next step under new head coach Steve Kerr, hoping that a healthy lineup can make waves in the Western Conference. What can we expect out of the Dubs in year one with the new coaching staff?

Matt Kolsky of KNBR joins Stephen Nelson to play a game of over/under in the video above.

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Warriors Hope Steve Kerr May Be Final Ingredient in Creating NBA Juggernaut

LOS ANGELES — An abundance of enticing young talent drew Steve Kerr back to California last spring.   

There was 26-year-old Stephen Curry, the baby-faced point guard with the killer three-point shot.   

There was Klay Thompson, the 24-year-old shooting guard with the smooth two-way game.   

And then there was Matthew Kerr, age 16, whose talents are more cerebral.

Steve Kerr spent last week, his first as the Golden State Warriors‘ head coach, instilling a new offensive mindset (key phrase: “move the ball”), while working out his team in Santa Monica. On Friday, he wrapped up the lesson by early afternoon, to give himself time to beat the traffic to San Diego.

Matthew Kerr was starring that night in a high-school production of “Rent,” and Dad planned to be there.

This is the advantage of being the head coach: You set the schedule. And this was the allure of coaching in the Bay Area, instead of New York: Kerr is just hours away from his San Diego home.

“I can maintain a semblance of family life,” a smiling Kerr told Bleacher Report last week. “The balance is important.”

Kerr’s wife Margot and their two sons, Matthew and 21-year-old Nick, reside in San Diego. Kerr’s daughter, Madeleine, is a sophomore at UC Berkeley, a short drive from the Warriors’ practice facility.

These are perks the Knicks could not offer. Even the presence of Phil Jackson, a personal mentor, could not trump the familial tugs.

“I’ll be a better coach, just having my family around,” Kerr said. “It’s empowering.”

Also empowering: Having a roster stocked with All-Star talent to begin your coaching career. On this front, there was no comparison. And there’s no question Kerr made the right call.

The Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony (assuming he re-signed) and the promise of cap room. The Warriors offered Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and, well, by that point it was already a rout.

Kerr’s challenge now is to harness that talent more effectivelyand take it furtherthan his predecessor, Mark Jackson, could. Though the Warriors won 47 and 51 games the last two seasons, making the playoffs both years, there was always a sense they had underachieved.

The Warriors tapped Kerr to unlock their full offensive potential.

The Curry-Thompson backcourt might be the NBA‘s best (a “beautiful combination,” Kerr says). Lee is a skilled scorer. Iguodala and Bogut are deft passers. The Warriors should be one of the most potent teams in the NBA. Yet they ranked 12th last season in points per 100 possessionssolid, but not elite.

The offense too often stalled and stagnated, resulting in muddled isolation plays and contested jumpers. There was little movement or dynamism, and little sense of cohesion.

“We had guys last year that sometimes wouldn’t touch the ball for 10 straight possessions,” Bogut told Bleacher Report, “and then all of a sudden a key play, Steph or Klay get doubled, swing-swing-swing, they’re open in the corner, but then it’s a pressure shot. You haven’t shot the ball, you haven’t touched the ball…and you have a wide open shot and you’ve gotta make it.

“That was kind of our problem toward the end of games, I thought,” Bogut said. “Sometimes we relied too much on trying to get Steph and Klay shots.”

Nearly 11 percent of the Warriors’ possessions last season were isolation plays, the third highest rate in the league, per Synergy Sports. Nor were the Warriors efficient on those plays, scoring just .842 points per isolation, which ranked 14th.

The Warriors’ internal analysis was just as damning. By one assessment, the Warriors were among the league leaders in possessions in which the ball never changed sides of the court. And yet the Warriors had their best success in games in which they averaged three to four passes per possession.

These are the numbers that Kerr and his staffled by veterans Alvin Gentry and Ron Adamsare trying to hammer home as they work to change bad habits.

“When we were hitting shots, that’s great,” Lee said of the iso-heavy play. “But when we weren’t hitting outside shots, it seemed to get stagnant. And that’s when we had big lulls offensively. With the firepower we have in the first eight or nine (rotation) guys, we should never have that.”

Kerr’s playbook is a blend of his own NBA experiences: a little of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, a little of Gregg Popovich’s motion offense and bits of the up-tempo system the Phoenix Suns deployed under Gentry and Mike D’Antoni, when Kerr was the general manager.

The Warriors hope to take advantage of their speed and get easier, earlier shots. When that fails, and it becomes a halfcourt game, Kerr’s prime directive kicks in: Move. The. Ball.

That phrase bounced off the walls of every Warriors practice last week, and is now repeated like a personal mantra, by every member of the organization.

“He wants us to keep that ball moving,” Thompson said, “because we have too many good guys on this team who can go off to just play iso-ball. That’s what we’ve gotta keep improving on.”

It’s an easy case to make, given the personnel. Lee and Bogut are among the best passers at their positions. Ditto for Iguodala, who has often played the role of point-forward in his career. The Warriors are uniquely suited to a ball-movement attack, to become a younger, livelier version of the pass-happy Spurs.

“The idea is: You guys were really good, but lets take the next step,’” Kerr said. “Here’s how we take the next step: We get better ball movement, we get more uncontested shots.”

“Defenses in the NBA are really, really good,” Kerr added. “If you only force them to make one or two reads in a possession, and rotations, it’s not enough. So I want us to force defenses to react four or five times in a possession, because that’s when you’re more likely to get a breakdown on a defense and an open shot as a result.”

That means more cutting, more passing and less standing around while Curry and Thompson take turns launching threes (as successful as that may be). It also means more passes to the postnot necessarily for Lee or Bogut to score, but to force defenses to adjust and to loosen the pressure on Curry and Thompson.

Bogut, whom Kerr called “a brilliant passer” on par with Marc Gasol, was virtually ignored in the Warriors’ offense the last two seasons. Now, he’s a critical hub.

“We know if we don’t have an easy option to the basket, we’ll find open guys,” Bogut said. “I think it’s starting to become contagious with our team.”

Around the Warriors, there is a reticence to draw direct contrasts to Mark Jackson’s approach. After all, they became a playoff team again on his watch, and made huge strides on defense, where they ranked third in points allowed per 100 possessions last season.

Some rival scouts and coaches say the Warriors’ defense was never as elite, or feared, as the analytics suggest. But the Warriors were stout enough that a better offense might have pushed them into the West’s top tier.

Improving their fourth-quarter execution, or bumping up their efficiency rating by even a point or two, might net the Warriors another four or five wins—the difference between a top-four finish (and home-court advantage in the playoffs) and a disadvantageous low seeding.

Even with a flawed offense, and Bogut missing due to injury, the Warriors took the Clippers to seven games last spring, suggesting that, with a few minor improvements and a little good fortune, they might be ready to join the elite.

The rest is up to their rookie coach.

“This team, they know they can be really good,” Kerr said. “I pound that home every day with them.”

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.

 

 

 

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Lakers’ Steve Nash injures back carrying bags (Yahoo Sports)

ONTARIO, CA - OCTOBER 12: Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 12, 2014 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash has missed his third straight practice after injuring his back while carrying bags.


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Steve Nash Injury: Updates on Lakers Star After Hurting Back Carrying Bags

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash just can’t seem to catch a break at this late stage of his career.

The 40-year-old veteran and two-time NBA MVP injured his back Wednesday while carrying bags. Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times reported what Lakers coach Byron Scott had to say on the matter.

“Steve, today, kind of hurt his back,” Scott said. “He had a little bit of a setback, just kind of carrying some bags or something. He [felt] a twinge in his back.”    

Tim Bontemps of the New York Post analyzed Nash’s injury:

The 2014-15 season marks the final year on Nash’s contract, which may very well turn out to be his last in the Association. He’s had an ailing back and other leg injuries since taking his talents to L.A.

Nash and fellow aging superstar Kobe Bryant are going to be counted on heavily for the Lakers this season. If Nash is unable to ultimately play on a consistent basis, the pressure will fall on newcomer Jeremy Lin to fill in at point guard.

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Jeremy Lin Deserves to Start for Los Angeles Lakers over Steve Nash

Jeremy Lin was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers as an insurance policy for starting point guard Steve Nash, but it has become clear through training camp and in the preseason that Lin deserves the starting job.

According to head coach Byron Scott, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the team is already considering starting Lin over Nash:

Lin has been dealing with an ankle injury of his own, but the 26-year-old point guard has missed just 11 games over the last two seasons. After averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game last year alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard on the Houston Rockets, the Lakers acquired Lin to add depth behind Nash and alleviate some of the pressure on the veteran.

Lin struggled in his first preseason game against Denver, missing all six of his field goals and finishing the day with just one point. He bounced back in his second game, though, and racking up 14 points, four assists and four rebounds.

On the other hand, Nash has already been dealing with back and hamstring injuries, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, and pulled himself from Sunday’s loss to Golden State:

The problem for the Lakers is reliability. The team needs a consistent point guard who can lead the offense, and Lin is the better option at this point of their respective careers. Nash is 40 years old and played in only 15 games last season while dealing with injuries. After playing in only 50 games the previous year, Nash would be better suited for sporadic minutes off the bench.

Sitting a star like Nash won’t be easy, but Scott told Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times about how he thinks the veteran will take the news if asked to be a role player: “I have no doubt in my mind that if I went to Steve and said tomorrow, ‘You know what, I’m going to start Jeremy and the games that you’re available, we’re going bring you off the bench,’ he’s such a professional that I don’t think it would be a problem whatsoever.”

The decision on which player is named starter should be based on who gives the team the best chance to win, not who had the most illustrious career. Los Angeles is trying to return to championship contention as soon as possible. As great as Nash was in the past, he is too injury-prone to carry the offensive unit throughout the 2014-15 campaign.

With players like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and Carlos Boozer all looking for a point guard to find them when they get open, building a rapport with Lin as the starter instead of learning on the fly is the smart move for the coaching staff.

Nash’s possible switch to a backup role would also give the team a serious weapon off the bench. The less minutes Nash has on his legs, the longer he can stay healthy and remain a contributing factor to the team.

Lin would play the majority of the minutes each game, and Nash could come in and operate a dangerous second-team offense or even play alongside Kobe in a dynamic backcourt.

No one will ever doubt the skill of Nash when he is healthy, but his unreliability over the last two seasons can’t be ignored. The veteran will remain a valuable asset off the bench, but Lin should be the starter for the Lakers moving forward.

 

*Stats via NBA.com.

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Is Los Angeles Lakers’ Reliance on Steve Nash a Risky Proposition?

This year was supposed to be different for Steve Nash. This was supposed to be the year that Nash finally came through for the Los Angeles Lakers, if only because this would be his last chance. The 40-year-old had already insisted that the 2014-15 season would be his finale in the NBA.

“I think this is my last season,” Nash told Sport TV over the summer (h/t SB Nation’s Jason Patt). “But I still love to play, practice and work on my game. I’m going to spend hopefully many many years living this life without basketball. It’ll be nice to play one more year.”

The Lakers, to their credit, afforded him that opportunity, even if doing so was something of a risk. They certainly didn‘t have to—not after the two disappointing, injury-plagued campaigns they’d seen from Nash; not with young, hungry guards like Jeremy Lin and rookie Jordan Clarkson prepared to contribute at the point; and not with Kobe Bryant ready to resume the lion’s share of the Lakers’ playmaking duties.

They could’ve cut their losses if they wanted to do so. They could’ve paid Steve Nash the $9.7 million he had left on his contract and spread out the resulting cap hit over three years by way of the stretch provision in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

Nash became aware of that possibility during the 2013-14 season and even seemed to expect the Lakers to send him on his weary way into retirement.

Instead, the Lakers hung on to Nash, choosing instead to cast their lot with a future Hall of Famer in their attempt to return to relevance after an abysmal 27-55 finish in 2013-14.

So far, the results have been…well, mixed, just as they figured to be. 

Nash, for his part, has said and done all of the right things. Rather than wallow in the self-pity and doubt that might otherwise overwhelm a man of Nash’s advancing age and declining physical condition, the two-time MVP took the revelation in stride and used it to fuel the fire driving his comeback.

“When the media asked me about the stretch provision and I learned what it was, and it became clear to me that I’m a serious candidate for that, it did really energize me,” Nash told Grantland.

It seemed, too, that Nash’s renewal of his vows to his body and the game of basketball had paid off. He came to training camp in great shape, ready to resume his place alongside Bryant in the Lakers backcourt. ”Steve [Nash] is amazing,” Lakers forward Carlos Boozer recently told The Los Angeles Times‘ Eric Pincus. “He’s really good, man. I enjoy playing with Steve. He makes the game really easy—great vision, great decision-making.”

This, after Nash chipped in 11 points and five assists in just 12 minutes during the Lakers’ preseason-opening win over the Denver Nuggets. 

None of this makes the latest stumbling block in Nash’s path back to competition any less disconcerting. Nash sat out L.A.’s second exhibition to rest, then asked out during the first quarter of the third. “We talked a little bit before the game, and he said he just wasn’t feeling quite right,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the Lakers’ second blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors in four nights, via ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi. “But he wanted to play, he wanted to give it a try. After the first quarter he said, ‘Coach, you know what, I’m done.’”

Nash has since insisted that he’s fine, that his recusal was more a matter of precaution than of actual injury.

But all would appear to be far from hunky-dory for Nash, if recent reports from Lakers practice are any indication.

Moreover, any time the words “back” and “nerve” wind up in a sentence about Nash, red flags are bound to fly, and rightfully so. Nash has dealt with back problems since his days with the Dallas Mavericks. In fact, Nash’s condition probably played a part in the Mavs‘ decision not to match the six-year, $65 million deal he signed to join the Phoenix Suns a decade ago.

“Steve had some back problems early in his career,” Mavs superstar and former Nash teammate Dirk Nowitzki told The Dallas Morning News‘ Eddie Sefko. “So I think Mark and Donnie were a little worried about his longevity. So I think that’s why they didn’t want to give him a five, six-year deal, which could have been argued at the time.”

Nash’s issues returned to the fore shortly after his purple-and-gold debut. During the second game of the 2012-13 season—the one that was supposed to yield a title contender in L.A., with Nash and Dwight Howard joining the fray—Nash bumped into Portland Trail Blazers then-rookie Damian Lillard.

The knock seemed ordinary enough at first blush. It turned out, though, that the collision broke a bone in Nash’s left leg, which, in turn, wreaked havoc on nerve in the area.

What followed was a protracted recovery that lasted nearly two months—and, evidently, remains incomplete. Nash missed 32 games in 2012-13 before finding his way into just 15 contests this past season.

Perhaps, then, the Lakers would’ve been better off had they decided to move on from Nash this summer. There’s nothing they can do about that now, but maybe they’d be wise to hand the point guard duties off to someone who, at the very least, isn’t the oldest player in the NBA and doesn’t have to be handled with kid gloves.

But Lin and Clarkson aren’t exactly in peak shape themselves. Even if all three were fit to play, Lin and Clarkson wouldn’t necessarily improve the Lakers’ prospects of success this season. The former couldn’t fend off Patrick Beverley for the Houston Rockets’ starting job, while the latter has yet to play a single minute of meaningful NBA basketball after arriving in L.A. as the No. 46 pick in the 2014 draft.

And it’s not as though the entirety of Nash’s tenure with the Lakers has been a lost cause. Two years ago, Nash averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 assists with stellar shooting splits of .501/.448/.922 in the 48 games he played after returning from injury. Last season, Nash managed to put up 19 points and five assists on his 40th birthday, albeit against the sad-sack Philadelphia 76ers.

As far as the Kobe-Nash partnership is concerned, the Lakers weren’t terrible—and were certainly far better than they proved to be last season—when those two last shared the floor on a regular basis. According to NBA.com, L.A. was 1.4 points per 100 possessions better than the opposition with Bryant and Nash in the lineup during the 2012-13 campaign.

Of course, these figures do little to illuminate what the Lakers will look like in 2014-15. Chances are, Bryant won’t be the same player he was two seasons ago, not after battling his way back from Achilles and knee injuries. Nash, too, might be a shell of the shell of his former self that he was when these two members of the 1996 draft class could both be counted on to play from one day to the next.

And, as Nash recently noted, it’s not as though they’ll be operating together within a familiar framework. “In some ways, there are some moments where it’s seamless,” Nash told The Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan (h/t Bleacher Report’s David Murphy). ”And in other ways, we’re still figuring our way together because we haven’t played that many games together and we’ve played together in three different offenses now. So it’s always kind of been in flux and adjustments.”

That being said, though the team’s time and success with Nash at the point have both been fleeting, the glimpses have been tantalizing enough to merit more opportunities for the Santa Clara grad to peddle his wares. As Bleacher Report’s David Murphy notes, L.A.’s opener against Denver featured more than a few of those moments:

Entering the final leg of the journey, two guards with 24 All-Star appearances between them may finally be on the right path together. During their preseason appearance against Denver, the not-quite-geriatric cases started together and looked effective, smooth and oh-so-deliberate.

Bryant’s fadeaway jumpers and pump fakes were tai chi compared to his blinding flurries of old. And Nash crept stealthily through the lane for layups or spotted up craftily from outside.

Long-term, Nash soaking up minutes at the point doesn’t help the Lakers, but neither would handing those minutes to Lin, who’ll be a free agent at season’s end. Short-term, Nash’s superiority as a shooter, ball-handler and passer—all skills that tend to age well, by the way—give L.A. a better chance to win from game to game than would someone like Lin, who doesn’t project quite as well working off the ball next to Bryant.

And if the Lakers still stink, which they figure to, at least the fans, both L.A.’s own and those of the opposing team, will be treated to one last, long look at one of the greatest floor generals the game has ever seen.

In truth, then, leaning on Nash is only a risky proposition insofar as the Lakers can be considered playoff contenders. That wouldn’t appear to be the case in a Western Conference that could run 11-deep with teams capable of competing for postseason spots.

If that’s the case, why not let Nash play? Why not see if he can work his magic, if not for the benefit of the club, then for that of the fans? 

The Lakers have already sunk nearly $10 million into Nash for the season, and there isn’t much that could happen now to render Nash’s tenure in L.A. anything approaching a rousing success. Why not, then, see what Nash has to offer before he hangs up his sneakers for good?

Considering the Lakers’ lackluster outlook for the upcoming season, featuring Nash at the point is less risk than rational response.

 

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Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Steve Nash’s 2014-15 Season

Injuries, age, contract structures and future free-agency plans have left the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 2014-15 campaign a mystery in the making, and Steve Nash‘s fate is perhaps the most confusing of their unsolved puzzles.

Pushing 41, the Hall of Fame-bound point guard is a lot of things. Durable isn’t one of them.

Nash has appeared in just 65 games over the last two seasons. The days of him headlining championship contenders are over, replaced instead by a fading star barely hanging on as he prepares for life after basketball.

“I think this is my last season,” he said of 2014-15 during an interview with Sport TV, per SB Nation. “But I still love to play, practice and work on my game. I’m going to spend hopefully many many years living this life without basketball. It’ll be nice to play one more year.”

Thoughts along those lines hint at submission. This season will be Nash’s last, his swan song, the final farewell to a career so impressive, these last two years watched like a foreign film without subtitles. 

Far removed from the player he once was, how will Nash’s final season unfold? Will he bow out worse for wear, bringing a merciful end to a career that really ended years ago? 

Or will his final ride be so impressive, so unbelievably familiar, that it won’t be a goodbye at all?

 

Worst-Case Scenario

Picturing the worst-case scenario for Nash’s 2014-15 crusade isn’t especially difficult. Groundwork has been laid over the last two years. 

Last season was particularly telling as a measuring stick. Nerve damage in his back coupled with hamstring issues limited Nash to just 15 games. And unlike 2012-13, when he played, Nash looked his age. His assist totals—5.7 in 20.9 minutes per game—remained respectable, but his shooting percentages plummeted while his mobility wavered. 

Worst-case scenario has Nash’s body and statistical output continuing their downward spiral.

Availability has already emerged as an issue in training camp. Nash rolled his left ankle in practice Saturday and was relegated to bystander duty once again, per the Los Angeles TimesBroderick Turner

Afterward, the floor general sounded less than concerned while guaranteeing the latest hiccup wouldn’t keep him out long. Or at all.

Most have long given up trying to downplay Nash’s setbacks and hiccups and bumps, though. Rightfully so, too. Minor stumbling blocks have too often swelled into crushing blows. Not even Nash himself is above accepting them and curbing his expectations accordingly.

“I’m over pushing things and taking risk now,” he said, via Turner. “I want to get through tomorrow.”

Day-to-day survival is an issue for anyone Nash’s age. Nothing spectacular is guaranteed. Not nearly two decades deep into an NBA career. There are too many variables to consider.

Simply taking the floor can be historic on its own. Only 18 times in league history has a player 40 or older played at least 25 games. Eleven players have accomplished the feat in total. Just five of them logged more than 20 minutes a night.

Following past trends would leave Nash to contribute in limited playing time. And while unimpressive, expecting him to register 20-minute stints for the entire year—or even half of it—can be seen as idealizing his return.

Barley or not playing at all is Nash’s basement. This isn’t the undervalued iron man of years past who, at the age of 37, missed only four games during the lockout-truncated 2011-12 crusade while averaging more than 30 minutes.

This is the injury-prone, career-weary silhouette of Nash who, on the brink of 41, might be lucky to play at all.

 

Best-Case Scenario

For someone obviously aware of how fluid and unpredictable his health is, Nash’s self-built ceiling sits higher than most.

“My health, enjoyment and effectiveness,” Nash told the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina of playing beyond 2014-15. “If I have a chance to play, it would have to be here. I’m not going to at this stage move somewhere else for a season and move my kids there.”

Entertaining the idea of soldiering on beyond this upcoming season is only noteworthy because of what it means.

Players are all about options. Nash doesn’t have to declare his intent to retire just yet. There’s no reason for him to reach that verdict now, weeks ahead of the season, months before he would play his last game. But considering it a possibility also suggests that it’s plausible, that Nash could play well enough to prolong his career.

Figuring out what that would look like is tricky, though it all starts with season-long survival.

If he stays healthy, he’ll play in more games; and if he plays in more games, there’s a better chance he’ll make substantial contributions to a rebuilding Lakers squad.

It was Nash who averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists per game while flirting with 50/40/90 shooting percentages in 2012-13. It’s him who has more of those 50/40/90 seasons (four) than anyone else in NBA history. It’s him who has piloted six of the 12 best offenses in league history.

And it’s him who, with the exception of last season, has been effective when healthy in limited action.

Like Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding recently punctuated, Nash, health permitting, can still succeed in today’s NBA:

If his body allows, Nash still can be a magical player. In recent pickup games with Lakers teammates, Nash has been pain-free and tossing around that old fairy dust.

He has long since learned to thrive without physical advantages, and him simply doing what he does would change what everyone else does on the Lakers.

In more ways than one, Nash has been preparing for this moment when age and logic are supposed to take precedence. His game isn’t predicated on athleticism or explosion. Never has been.

Intellectual superiority kept Nash dominant past 30, beyond 35, as he approached 40. The ability to see the floor, interpret opposing defensive sets and break them down with the placement and timing of his passes rather than his individual speed preserved his playmaking value.

Accurate spot-up shooting helped him age. Nash doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. Healthy and available, he can be of consistent value.

Best-case scenarios have him doing what he’s always done—throwing passes and hitting threes—in smaller volume. In the event he’s that same dime-dropping, shot-draining player next season, the Lakers’ record, along with his individual stat line, will reflect said performance, turning Nash’s immediate future into a question mark, not an expiring formality.

 

Making Sense of the Stakes

There isn’t anything left for Nash to prove. Whether he ends next season on a high or low note, he’s still on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Finishing out next year on a low note, having barely scraped by, all but ensures his departure. There’s no reason to play on if he cannot actually play. The only way his career continues is if he surprises even himself, turning back the clock to a time when injuries didn’t define him and his presence was a given.

And even then, even if Nash hits his ceiling, this isn’t a fairy tale both reborn and destined to continue.

“It’s a nice thought, and if he was actually healthy enough to play more, there’s nobody who wouldn’t like to see Nash stick around,” Sean Highkin wrote of Nash for NBC Sports. “But it’s tough to see that happening for a variety of reasons…He hasn’t definitively said it yet, but barring a miracle, it’s safe to assume that this is probably it for the future Hall of Famer.”

Having placed an emphasis on remaining in Los Angeles if he continues playing, per Medina, Nash has only further set the stage for his retirement.

The Lakers aren’t going to win him a ring this year or next. They’ll have cap space to burn in free agency, but the chances of them assembling a contender before Kobe Bryant‘s contract expires in 2016 are slim.

That basically means Nash—assuming the Los Angeles Clippers don’t come calling—would be returning on a discounted contract to a fringe playoff contender at best. That’s not an opportunity. It’s an empty endeavor.

Surpassing the reserved expectations set before him isn’t an unconditional license to play on, free from injury and disappointment. It’s the means to end his career on his own terms, or a chance to double down on his resurgence by attaching himself to a team that offers what he doesn’t have: a championship.

Unless Nash softens to the idea of living outside Los Angeles, while simultaneously eluding Father Time, 2014-15 will be about saying goodbye his way rather than playing for a future that doesn’t exist.

Accepting this year for what it is, whatever it is, and then making the decision that best serves his body and reputation is the dream—the absolute best of any and all best-case scenarios.

 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise cited.

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UCLA signs coach Steve Alford to extension

UCLA signs basketball coach Steve Alford to 1-year contract extension through 2020-21 season

      
 

 

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Steve Ballmer wants Clippers to eclipse Lakers

USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick talked with Clipper owner Steve Ballmer about the high expectations for his .Clippers

      
 

 

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UCLA signs coach Steve Alford to extension (Yahoo Sports)

UCLA head coach Steve Alford speaks to players during the first half in a regional semifinal game against the Florida at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford is getting a one-year contract extension through the 2020-21 season one year after arriving in Westwood.


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