Although Los Angeles Lakers fans are used to winning championships in every era, many will also admit that they really enjoyed the young, mid-90s teams. Led by Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, and Cedric Ceballos before eventually adding Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, those teams were very exciting.
In particular, the backcourt of Van Exel and Jones was extremely popular. Jones was more reserved and quiet, but Van Exel has the confidence and swagger that fans loved. He had no issues taking any big clutch shot, but his abilities as a true point guard are pretty underrated.
When talking about the best Laker point guards, the conversation usually starts and ends with Magic Johnson and Jerry West. That’s with good reason as those are two of the greatest in NBA history let alone Lakers, but Van Exel was an All-Star in his own right and one of his best nights came Jan. 5, 1997.
Van Exel showed off his playmaking skills, finishing with a ridiculous 23 assists in the Lakers’ 95-82 win over the Vancouver Grizzlies. The total is the second-most in Lakers history, behind Magic who had 24 on a couple of different occasions.
Additionally, Van Exel became one of only 14 players in NBA history with 23 or more assists in a single game.
Van Exel also added eight points and eight rebounds as he neared a triple-double. Shaq led the Lakers with 31 points and 12 rebounds, Jones added 21 and four steals, and rookie Kobe scored 16 off the bench. But this game was all about the point guard.
It isn’t often that Van Exel gets his just do as a favorite of Lakers fans everywhere. But with Shaq in his first season in L.A., and Kobe still just a baby, it was Nick the Quick who was a leader on this squad. On this night he was just a step away from Lakers history.
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