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Healthy Steve Nash Will Make D'Antoni's Offense Perfect System for LA Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21:  Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers waits on the court in the game with the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on October 21, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings won 99-92.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

Steve Nash is the difference between uncertainty and perfection for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Hollywood's team brought in the veteran point guard, it had hoped that he would instill a sense of purpose in the offense. He was supposed to give it the creative direction it so sorely lacked while also emerging as the point man Kobe Bryant had never played alongside.

But then Mike Brown thought it pertinent to stifle Nash's strengths by asking him to play off the ball within the Princeton offense. Such tactics led to the Lakers losing their only two games in which Nash had played, on their way to dropping four of their first five overall.

In case you hadn't noticed, Brown was exiled and Mike D'Antoni, not Phil Jackson, was brought in to ensure the well-being of this excessively expensive endeavor.

In case you hadn't also noticed, though, Los Angeles is still struggling to stay above .500. They went on to win six of their next nine after Brown was shown the door, but something is still missing. Something is still preventing the Lakers from becoming the powerhouse they're supposed to be.

Or is it someone?

The one and only Nash hasn't seen the court in 12 games as of November 27th. He's incurred a number of setbacks and what was thought to be a day-to-day injury has now turned into an extensive stay on the injured list.

But his shin can't hold him back forever.

According to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, there is still no timetable behind his impending return, but there is plenty of hope that it will come sooner, not later.

Mike D'Antoni said LAL are "getting more reassured that there's light at the end of the tunnel" for @stevenash, but no target date.

— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 27, 2012

Nash has resumed some basketball-related activities, and while that's but a tease now, soon enough, Nash will return to action, the Lakers can assume their rightful place near the top of the standings and D'Antoni will look like a clipboard-wielding genius.

Yes, questions continue to circulate regarding whether or not D'Antoni was the right man to lead Los Angeles' star-rific cause, but once Nash comes back, there will be no more questions left to answer.

The Lakers opted for D'Antoni over Jackson for plenty of reasons, none more important than Nash's usage.

Why?

Because Los Angeles' crafty point guard was born for this offense.

In four years playing under D'Antoni, Nash won two MVP awards. He led the charge of a prolific Phoenix Suns attack, while never averaging under 10.5 assists per game during that span.

That's what the Lakers need.

It's not just that Nash is familiar with the offense, but rather, what he means to it and how well those around him play as a result.

Between 2004 and 2008, the years in which Nash played for the Suns under D'Antoni, Phoenix was plus-2,290 total points with Nash on the floor, second most out of everyone in the NBA, including Bryant and Dwight Howard. Tim Duncan was the only other player in the league to post a higher rating.

Incredible? Absolutely. A coincidence? Absolutely not. 

D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense dictates that the ball keep moving and that the point guard be the one to kick-start said movement. Right now, no one on the Lakers is averaging more assists than the 5.1 Kobe is dishing out per game and as a result, the team is 23rd in that department as a collective.

Which needs to change. This offense is nothing without a distributor to put his teammates in position and properly space the floor.

Nash, who has dished out 10 or more assists in seven of the last eight seasons, is someone who can reverse this. He's someone who can ensure that passes are sent with purpose, not as a mere means of deferment.

Just as importantly, he's also someone who is going to stretch defenses thin. He's shooting 42.8 percent from beyond the arc for his career and is coming off a season that saw him connect on over 39 percent of his long-range attempts. He's never hit on less than 37 percent of his deep balls. 

Nash's three-point prowess will mean a great deal to the Lakers when he returns. He's going to force opposing defenses to respect the perimeter even more, which allows for less double-teams and ensure that more openings are created for everyone.

No, the 38-year-old Nash isn't a stout defender nor is he a fountain of youth. But he's as ageless and clever as they come, and he's as familiar with what it takes to succeed in D'Antoni's system as you can be.

Continuity and familiarity is what the Lakers need most right now. They need someone to ground them, someone to ensure that new-to-the-system players like Pau Gasol and Howard remain involved.

Los Angeles needs someone like Nash to tie this offense together the way he did with the Suns when he played for D'Antoni the first time around.

"In Phoenix, we couldn't win without him," D'Antoni told ESPNLosAngeles' Ramona Shelburne. "Not even a game."

While this doesn't exactly bode well for the Lakers in the interim, it's a telling sign of how much Nash means to this team, how much he actually means to this offensive blueprint.

As well as a flagrant assurance of how far he'll be able to carry them upon his return.

 

 

 

All stats in this article are accurate as of November 27th, 2012.

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