Certainly not the news Lakers Nation was waiting for, but injured PG Steve Nash acknowledged that he needs at least two additional weeks before returning during an interview, Monday evening. Nash told USA Today:
I think it will be at least another two weeks. I can move. I can shoot. I just can’t run at full speed…and I’m not even in shape. I’ll probably need at least another week of practice once I start running.
Reportedly, Nash is dealing with nerve irritation near the location where he fractured his fibula back on October 31st. This news comes on the heels of several reports of a Nash return being “imminent” and likely by this coming weekend. After weeks of being told “7-10 days”, there was a growing sense of calm and satisfaction with the optimistic prognosis. Since that is no longer a likely scenario, where do the Los Angeles Lakers turn from here?
Many of the “I-told-you-so’s” seem to be coming from the woodwork. I’ve seen so much of what the Lakers should or could have done on Twitter and Facebook that I could probably write a book on the subject. From re-hiring Phil Jackson to signing Delonte West, which I’d favor, to also revisiting the idea of bringing in Nate McMillan as a defensive specialist on the coaching staff. Quite frankly, I’ve grown tired of discussing what the Lakers should have done and every misstep along the way. I prefer to be solution-based, and focus on what can actually be done to improve upon the situation.
At 9-12 (W/L), the Lakers are no longer in a position to simply wait until Nash returns. Just 3-7 over their previous 10 games, the Lakers are a team in danger of creating a hole simply too deep to dig themselves out of. I’m not saying they are at risk of eventually missing the postseason, although they currently sit in the 11th position out West. I’m only saying any hopes of hosting a home playoff series in the first round may rest on the next 10-game stretch. Believe me, I’ve been the leader of the “must have patience” mantra, but one can only ignore the pink elephant in the corner for so long. This is an aging, injured roster that doesn’t fit a system that is sure to place its older stars at even greater risk for injury.
Regardless of when Nash returns, which we cannot be certain will even be two weeks, the Lakers are in a position of needing to make several moves in order to get proper pieces to fit the organization’s new direction. Men far smarter and more qualified than I (namely Mitch Kupchak and Mike D’Antoni) are in a position, yet again, that I do not envy. They hold the challenge of not only securing additional players to fit yet another system (Kupchak), but also figuring out a way to maximize what talent and parts are currently available and at their disposal until the right moves are made (D’Antoni). With Steve Blake months away from returning (abdominal surgery) and Nash (hopefully) out another couple weeks, it will be interesting to see if Kupchak shifts his focus from obtaining interchangeable forwards that can run and shoot to addressing the point guard position.
Outside of lineup changes, D’Antoni has yet to display an ability to motivate this roster to give a maximum effort each night, let alone display signs of consistent improvement. Again, I’m sure Coach D’Antoni is far smarter (in terms of basketball) than any of us, but this team is looking a lot closer to some of the dreadful New York Knicks squads he coached, as opposed to run-and-gun days in Phoenix. The one similarity in both cases? No Steve Nash. I realize how much of a difference a strong point guard can make, but Nash’s absence has very little to do with the Lakers surrendering 100+ points to seven of the prior 10 opponents. Not coincidentally, as previously mentioned, the Lakers have lost that same amount of games over the stretch. Coach D’Antoni has joked with the media about the ‘D’ being given back to his name by Dwight Howard, but even having the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year on his roster hasn’t remedied the issue.
The Lakers play six of the next eight games on the road, but are currently 2-6 away from Staples Center, this season. It’s time to stop saying “when Nash comes back” and figure out a way to turn things around. The rest of the league doesn’t care about the injuries and issues, and at this point neither do I. If we’re being honest, there have been several games this season where simply giving a maximum effort on both sides of the ball could have and likely would have been the difference in the game. By any name, Coach D’Antoni and these Lakers can no longer be excused. I’m an eternal optimist, but refuse to make exceptions any longer. A team with true title aspirations would expect and accept nothing less.