It should come as a surprise to no one that Steve Nash is out for the season with back problems again. This means Jeremy Lin, as he deserves, will be the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, and for one of the best point guards in the history of the game to announce his retirement very soon.
Nash played only 15 games last season for the Los Angeles Lakers with similar back problems that almost caused him to retire, but he decided to stick around for one more season, hoping to show there’s still some basketball remaining in his legs. The moment he was taken off the roster for preseason games, it was clear something was up. Nash last played on October 12 against the Golden State Warriors and looked bad in his 12 minutes on the floor.
A two-time NBA MVP, five-time Assists leader, 8-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA first team selection, Nash has been in the league since 1996, taking his time before breaking out as one of the best and most fun to watch point guards of his generation. From the 2001-02 season to his final year with the Phoenix Suns, the shortened 2011-2012 season, Nash rarely missed any games. But since joining the Lakers, he’s played only 65 games through two seasons, and relying on him to last this year in a prominent role was foolish risk, especially considering he takes up $9 million of the cap space, although the Lakers didn’t have a lot of options in that aspect.
Byron Scott was planning on having Jeremy Lin run with the second unit, which includes Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Nick Young and possibly, at some point, Xavier Henry, and maybe also be a part of the fourth quarter scheme. But now? The only other rotation point guard the Lakers have is Ronnie Price, who played big minutes during the preseason and mostly made himself noticeable through throwing a shoe at Andre Iguodala while trying to stop a fast break.
This isn’t that much of a blow for the Lakers, although it does call for some rearranging when it comes to the rotations. At this point, Nash is an inferior point guard to Lin, who has always been compared to Nash in his playing style, although without the 3-point shooting ability so far. It does mean that the potential exciting second unit will go through a reshuffle, as Lin will try and make his impact next to Kobe Bryant most of the time, while the trio of Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill occupy the front court.
An important thing in Lin’s rise to starting point guard will be the speed of that lineup. With Bryant and Nash on it, it makes for something of a slow backcourt. Lin isn’t a shut down defender, but at least he can move, something Nash, even in his “healthy” state, couldn’t do too well anymore. It gives the Lakers a chance to look a bit better and more aggressive in their transition game with more than just the younger guys, if Lin gets the chance to make his mark on the players around him and during his minutes on the floor.
As it was with Houston, he finds himself playing next to a very ball-dominant shooting guard. In Houston, Lin had his moments, but it was mostly about taking a backseat to the wants and needs of James Harden. As we saw in the fourth quarter loss to the Phoenix Suns, despite Lin doing a great job of putting the Lakers back in the game, Bryant ignored all of that and decided to take it upon himself to win the game. It worked, but it’s not the smart course of action to take (Bryant posting up and taking fadeaways from 20 feet).
Jeremy Lin is getting the chance he hoped for, but with an asterisk. Because of who he is playing with, and Byron Scott not looking like the kind of coach who’d be happy with a fast, exciting style, and also because it comes alongside a season ending injury to a great NBA player, who has probably played his final NBA game last season, not getting a chance to get a little bit of playing time in what should have been his farewell year.