Steve Nash out for the year: What it means and what it doesn’t

October 25, 2014

Steve Nash / Photo: NBA Media
The news that Steve Nash will not be playing for the Lakers this season is disappointing, but hardly unexpected. Few rational observers really believed Nash would be playing more than a handful of games this season anyway.

To his credit, Nash, still one of the coolest guys ever to wear a Lakers uniform, never tried to fool anyone about what he believed might happen this season, consistently keeping expectations realistic and low every time he was asked about his health.

So how will that impact the outlook for the Lakers season? Not a tremendous amount, but three immediate consequences should be the outcome.

1. Jeremy Lin, who many were expecting to start regardless of the final decision on Nash, will now definitely start at PG for the Lakers. All silly ideas about bringing him off the bench because of the quality of his play with the “second unit” should be squashed quickly.

The Lakers are simply not good enough for Lin not to play over 35 minutes a game, and in his limited preseason action he has already proven to Kobe and anyone else watching that he is a difference maker on a team without too many of them.

2. As of right now, Ronnie Price will be playing vital minutes in every game as Lin’s backup, something that wouldn’t have been confidently predicted before the start of preseason.

Price brings an aggressiveness on defense that head coach Byron Scott clearly appreciates, and he is very much a willing distributor. However, his shooting will need to improve for the Lakers not to take a hit when Lin is off the court.

3. The Lakers now know that they will likely need another point guard on the roster. For the short term that means either Wayne Ellington makes the team or rookie Jordan Clarkson will be pushed to fill this role. (The latter is doubtful considering Scott’s old-school view towards rookies.) If neither option appears great to the team, it suggests they will have to go find another backup point guard via trade or free agency

If Nash was constantly in and out of the lineup, it’s not clear if the Lakers would ever make it a priority to groom Clarkson or seek another point guard.

What is one thing Nash's injury will not do?

It will have zero impact on Jeremy Lin’s trade value to the Lakers.

Apparently out in the ether of Lakerland, a nonsensical idea is floating around, given voice again this past week by 710 ESPN LA radio hosts Max Kellerman and Brian Kamenetzky.

This theory is that Nash's absence is going to be wonderful for the Lakers because it will help them acquire a great player in a trade for Jeremy Lin around the trade deadline this season.

Ooh, great “next-level” thinking, guys. Only one problem. That makes no sense.

Let’s break it down in our imagination.

According to Kellerman and Kamenetzky, now that Nash is gone, Lin will play a lot more minutes and, because he’s pretty good, that will mean he will accumulate some nice stats, maybe 17 points and 9 assists per game or something.

A reasonable person like you might say, “Well, if Lin is playing this well then that will be a real help to the Lakers this season. Also, the fact that he proves to be this productive when he’s finally being given starter’s minutes maybe indicates he would be a good guy for the Lakers to hang on to for the long term.”

“Not so fast,” say these brain surgeons. “It doesn't matter that Lin’s performance will actually help the Lakers this season. It also doesn't mean that the Lakers should lock him up for a longer term deal at a reasonable rate before he becomes a free agent.”

“Really?” you ask.

“Really,” insist these two geniuses excitedly. “Because the real cool thing is that it means the Lakers can now trade Jeremy Lin (probably the team’s second-best player).”

Maybe now you are like former Philadelphia Eagles RB Ricky Watters, and you ask incredulously, “For who? For what?”

“A better player,” they respond confidently. “No need to be specific.”

Again, you may be confused. “And why would another team generously trade a better player to the Lakers in return for a worse one (Lin, in this scenario). If they are a good team trying to improve their playoff position or even a team trying to get better to make it into the playoffs, that wouldn't seem like the right move.”

They laugh at you, because they are so smart and you are so dumb. “Duh. Lin has a huge expiring contract – he gets paid over $14 million this season. A large portion of that contract – about $8.3 million - works against the salary cap. A lot of team’s want that off of their books, right? That other team will want to use that money to go and get other great free agents next year after they dump Lin.”

Now you remember something. “Didn't the Lakers, assuming they don’t decide to re-sign Lin, want to benefit from that same cap flexibility instead of giving it to another team?”

They get a little annoyed. “Not important for the Lakers. They just need to get a better player.”

But something still seems wrong to you. “I still don’t get it.  If a team doesn't want to trade for Lin because he is playing well, but really just want his expiring contract, then why does it matter what Lin’s stats are this season?”

(Imagine the silence.)

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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