How the L.A. Lakers Hide a Hobbled Steve Nash Against Tony Parker and Co.

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterApril 19, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 18:  Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 18, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 99-76.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The good news for the Los Angeles Lakers is that Steve Nash could be available to suit up against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs.

The bad news is that Steve Nash could suit up against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs.

Nash, 39, recently received two epidural injections for his ailing hip and hamstring.

"I haven't been able to run yet," said Nash, who, if good to go will be forced to contain one of the toughest point guard covers in the world.

And something tells me that Nash might need his legs for this one.

The Lakers made a major push over the final portion of the season. A push that landed them in the playoffs, which seemed off limits for about three-quarters of the season.

The issue is that Steve Nash's legs weren't behind this push.

Without Nash, the ball has run through Pau Gasol, and though not your typical point guard at seven-feet tall, the fact is the team has looked good, and the results have been positive.

But it's Nash's defensive struggles that should be a cause for concern against the speedy Tony Parker. So how do the Lakers hide Nash's beat-up, vulnerable lower body?

Simple: They hide Steve Nash from San Antonio.

Just because he's healthy enough to play doesn't mean he should—at least not in a full-time role.

Nash suited up against the Spurs earlier in the year, a game which the Lakers lost. I'll let Tony Parker's shot chart illustrate just how effective Nash was defensively.

Parker's shot chart vs. Nash:

Nash played 39 minutes in this game.

Parker seemed to get where he wanted whenever he wanted, finishing with 10 made field goals including five layups at the rim. As you can see, not once did Nash force Parker to his weak side, with all of his attempts and production coming on the right.

When the Lakers beat the Spurs just a week ago, a game in which Nash sat out, Parker's short chart looked somewhat different.

Parker's shot chart against Lakers without Nash:

Nash has never been considered a perimeter ball-stopper. But unless he's healthy, particularly his hips and hamstring, Nash will be a defensive liability against one of the craftiest guards this game as ever seen.

Nash and the Lakers need to swallow their pride a little bit here. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports quoted Nash as saying:

When I can play, I'll play, no question. It's not even a matter of getting to 100 percent. If I can play, I'll play. I can't just play yet, unfortunately. It's tough.

Unfortunately, it is a matter of getting to 100 percent. Because at 80 percent, Nash isn't helping the Lakers, he's hurting them.

He hasn't played in a while, and hasn't exactly a been a model for reliability in his first year with L.A. Steve Blake has actually been rather effective as of late. He's scored 24 and 23 points during the Lakers' last two games, respectively. Why not ride the hot hand instead of the one that's banged up?

I'm not saying don't let Nash play—I'm saying reduce his role. Use him as a shot-maker off the bench instead of a primary ball-handler.

The Lakers have a good thing going right now. The team's confidence is up and there's some rhythm being built. Throwing Nash back into the fire changes the complexion of the lineup and forces the rotation to adjust.

But this is the playoffs. There's no time for adjusting. The Lakers should ride the same wave that brought them in.

This isn't a knock on Nash—in my opinion he's the greatest point guard of the post-John Stockton era. But he's not healthy, he's a bad matchup against Parker and the Lakers have been succeeding with a different formula.

The recipe for beating the Spurs doesn't call for drowning out the contents with four scoops of Nash—it calls for just a splash.