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Why are the Lakers taking the ball out of Steve Nash’s hands?

Oct 13, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

When the Lakers landed Steve Nash, even before Dwight Howard, there was exultation across Lakers Land. The team would no longer need to run everything through Kobe Bryant, wouldn’t struggle getting the ball to the bigs, would have someone to quarterback, coordinate, and execute the offense. Yes, it was going to be a great new time in Hollywood. Then they added Dwight Howard! The best pick and roll point guard in the league according to Synergy Sports last year with the best pick and roll finisher last year according to the same! Genius!

And Mike Brown’s going to pretty much jack that up entirely.

In a wide-ranging piece on the Princeton offense from’s Ken Berger, Steve Nash talked about the changes that he’ll have to make in his game in the Princeton offense Mike Brown is running. Nash is more than happy to do so and supportive, even excited, but things will be different.

It was more than notable that Nash used the term “completely opposite” to describe how the Princeton offense differs from the system he’s thrived in for years.

“We have multiple post players, which I’ve never really played with,” Nash said. “You have the ability to go in a number of different directions, whereas before we really relied on pick-and-rolls. We have pick-and-roll players here, but we also have the ability to go inside or go to Kobe and other guys to score the ball.”

Even in his 17th season, Bryant, 34, remains a scoring beast who needs to be fed in isolation, especially late in the shot clock when all else has failed. And despite all their talent, the Lakers are an older team. The seven-seconds-or-less approach, whereby Nash has spent the bulk of his career wearing down opponents with the dizzying force of numerous possessions, might have tired out the Lakers first. The downside? Nash, who has thrived with the ball in his hands the vast majority of the time, will no longer be the perpetual trigger man.

“I won’t have to make all the decisions,” Nash said. “We can go inside to our big guys and allow them to make a lot of the decisions, and obviously Kobe is still going to be our go-to-guy. In some ways, I won’t have the ball in my hands all the time and I’ll be spotting up and getting open shots, so it’s going to be a little bit different.”

via Lakers’ championship hopes depend on how well things mesh – NBA – News, Scores, Stats, Fantasy Advice.

Setting aside the fact that the ball is now going into Dwight Howard who will be tasked with passing to backdoor cutters and players swinging for jumpers, which inherently means that the great passer Pau Gasol is now cutting while the great-cutting Dwight Howard is passing, am I the only one that’s wondering why in God’s name you would decide to move to a system where Steve Nash doesn’t have the ball?

This isn’t about scoring. Nash on this team could score less than ten points a game and still have the highest offensive rating and points per possession off his shots and assists in the league. It’s about the fact that for the past seven years, when Steve Nash has the ball, good things happen for your offense. Amazing things. This isn’t rocket science. Steve Nash + Ball = Good. But for some reason, the Lakers are moving in the opposite direction of that. Even with the idea that Nash is getting up there in age, offensively, he’s the least of the defense’s worries, and so he’s not going to be taking a beating. But to make the offense work, he has to have the ball.

Nash with Gasol in the pick-and-pop is such an amazing idea on its own that it’s going to get overlooked. Bryant cutting off screens for catch-and-shoot curl jumpers  could increase his field goal percentage by 5% or more. Howard and Nash on the pick and roll is a literally, and I mean literally literally, unstoppable combination without sacrificing all of your help defense, leaving Bryant or Gasol open to arguably the best passer in the game.

Why on Earth would you want to move away from that?

It’s not even about pace, it’s just about effectiveness.

The Lakers are still going to be incredible. They could run a Hawks-style isolation offense and still beat the crap out of teams. But the Princeton offense is going to leave a lot to be desired in terms of maximizing their assets. At some point you have to wonder if Mike Brown overthought how to get this super team on the road to a title. But of course, we have to wait and see. Howard’s an underrated passer, and Gasol’s versatile enough to do anything, and Nash is an incredible spot-up shooter. Maybe this works out. But conceptually, it just seems counterintuitive.

  1. money2long - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    do you hear that..guys who criticize how the lakers will stop people on defense? how will they stop kobe? they haven’t figured it out. “Even in his 17th season, Bryant, 34, remains a scoring beast who needs to be fed in isolation.”

    • eventhorizon04 - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Kobe’s 42% field goal percentage last year is a sign that people are figuring that out.

      • adeedothatswho - Oct 13, 2012 at 4:44 PM

        Actually, that had much more to do with his knee wearing down at the end of games. Subtract his fourth quarter FG% and his shooting % jumps up. Mike Brown wore him down last year.

  2. 00maltliquor - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    This is what I’ve been saying the whoooole time! Everyone else just seems so hyped up on that Princeton offense.

  3. eventhorizon04 - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    …..It’s not really complicated.
    Yes, Nash has been very successful his whole career with the ball in his hands, constantly pushing the ball down the court in at an up-tempo pace.

    However, this isn’t 2007 anymore.
    Nash is 38 and is good for 30 minutes a game.
    Kobe is 33 and if you look at the components of his game, he’s most effective in the low-post, where he’s the top rated shooting guard.
    Metta World Peace is 32, and he’s been used as a floor spacing spot-up shooter on offense.
    Pau Gasol is 32, and most would agree, his talents are best used in the low-post.
    Dwight Howard is their ONLY starter under age 32, and while he’s a good pick-and-roll partner, he’s also effective on offense in the low-post presence.

    That means Nash’s uptempo style that depends on being surrounded by young athletic players won’t work. This is a veteran team where 3 of the 5 players on offense are at their best while operating in the low-post, not sprinting up and down the court.
    3 out of the 5 starters also won multiple championships while playing in the triangle offense, so there’s a comfort level with that style rather than a point-guard dominated style Nash has used for his entire career.

    Make no mistake – The Lakers this year are going to be a slow-paced team that prefers executing in the half-court. On offense, they will try to dominate in the low-post on offense with Kobe, Pau, and Howard. On defense, they should be excellent in the half-court with a multiple Defensive Player of the Year award winner providing help defense and rim protection and Kobe and World Peace guarding the wing players.

    If you were hoping for the Nash-Amar’e-Johnson up-tempo style, you’re 5 years too late. Remember, many of these guys struggled against the up-tempo Nuggets.

  4. teehov843 - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    No big deal. When the Lakers had Gary Payton, he rarely ran the triangle offense. Nash will have the freedom to run the sets he feel is necessary during the game. Having all these options(Princeton/pick & roll/pick & pop) is what will make the Lakers offense even more unstoppable.

  5. therealhtj - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Why? Two words. Kobe’s ego.

    • adeedothatswho - Oct 13, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      Really? Did you wake up in 2005?

  6. Zammael - Oct 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Age is not a sufficient reason for slow-down offenses. The 1972 Lakers successfully installed a running game with older players:
    Wilt was 35 years old, and a shell of his former self.
    West was 34 years old. Baylor was on his last legs.

    But Coach Sharman pulled it off by persuading this team led by old superstars past their prime to run. Wilt focused on the boards and interior defense. He fired off amazing outlet passes downcourt. West handled the ball and Goodrich fired fallaway jumpers off picks. Once Baylor retired, the Lakers went on a 33 game winning streak, averaged 121 points per game, and won the title.

    So, as long Howard controls the boards, fires off outlet passes downcourt, and Gasol/Nash/Kobe run early to establish premium position, they’ll score easier than last season.

  7. ninjanuke - Oct 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Dwight howard will be passing and gasol the cutter… Yea youre right the lakers are stupid enough to not just let pau pass and howard cut. Its not that complicated man, they will have multiple ways to attack. The princeton offense is built as aread and react system that gives the players much more freedom and phil jackson even said he thinks it’ll work. Pretty sure his 11 championships account for more than your rediculous ideas of forcing the ball out of nashs hands and forcing players to only fill certain rolls. Watch and see. If things arent going well nash isnt gonna say “i wanna run the pick and roll but the princeton offense wont let me”

  8. crtzinc - Oct 13, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    This article is laughable. I think Matt wanted to incite some talk or his employers told him he needed to meet his article quota. Honestly, Mike Brown openly stated last week that Nash will have the ball in his hands a lot if not every time down the floor. Brown has stated that if Nash wanted to run pick n’ roll every time he could. The only meaningful thing that this article hits on is that the Lakers have tremendous options which was obvious to begin with. When the Lakers ran the triangle it was not simply straight triangle sets. The point of this Princeton offense is to include elements of it into the Lakers offense and not to strictly rely on it. Honestly the Princeton offense is a good structure for the bench.

  9. lakerluver - Oct 13, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    It amazes me that people on this site think they know more about basketball than Mike Brown, or any NBA coach for that matter. I can’t wait for the season to start so the LAKERS can shut up all the “experts”.

  10. paulhargis53 - Oct 13, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I see wonder turd is at it again posting his nonsense. We can’t say Brown is a bad coach, but you can say Parker and Brown are bad players? God you’re a hypocritical douchebag. Why don’t you quit posting and go get your weekly Cleveland steamer from your “life partner”??

    You’re a know nothing and quite annoying.

    • cosanostra71 - Oct 13, 2012 at 8:18 PM


      • limonadamas - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM

        it took him only 9 minutes to respond this time. hahaha

    • ocgunslinger - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:36 PM

      Only one turd EVER on this site PH ……and talk about annoying. You must have a mirror close by

  11. buffalo65 - Oct 13, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    Lakers are going to be a huge disappointment this year.

    • manchestermiracle - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:19 AM

      Sez the guy with the name of a city that has no team. Hey, the Clippers came from Buffalo, is that your team now?

      • blueintown - Oct 14, 2012 at 5:15 AM

        When did Manchester get a team?

      • manchestermiracle - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        The LAKERS and KINGS played at the Great Western Forum (The Fabulous Forum, in Chick Hearn’s words) from 1967-1999. The Forum is located at the corner of Manchester Blvd. and Prairie Ave. in Inglewood, CA. As a youngster I lived two blocks west and attended many games.

        The Miracle on Manchester is the nickname given to a NHL playoff game between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers that took place on April 10, 1982. The game, the third in a best-of-five postseason series, was played at The Forum, the Kings’ home arena at the time, which was situated on Manchester Boulevard (hence the nickname) in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. The Kings completed the largest comeback in NHL playoff history, going from being down 5-0 to win the game 6-5 in overtime. Combined with upset wins in Games 1 and 5, the Kings eliminated the heavily favored Wayne Gretzky-led Oilers in a 3-2 series victory to reach the second round.

        Any further questions? Oh, I guess you didn’t really want to know, you were just trolling.

      • manchestermiracle - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        And I was just pulling buffalo65’s chain. His name is for the Sabres. I’m sure he’s aware there’s no NBA team there.

      • manchestermiracle - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM

        The Manchester Giants are a British professional basketball team that….Oh, hell, never mind.

      • blueintown - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:16 PM

        You’re right. I didn’t want to know any of that. Get a job.

  12. zxrated - Oct 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    This is an interesting question and read. Let me just say this, if the Lakers don’t at least get to the finals, Phil Jackson is lurking… #MikeBrownO_O

  13. dal24la - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    “Setting aside the fact that the ball is now going into Dwight Howard who will be tasked with passing to backdoor cutters and players swinging for jumpers, which inherently means that the great passer Pau Gasol is now cutting while the great-cutting Dwight Howard is passing,”

    You misread Kurt. Here is what the article says: “Pau Gasol is perfect for the system, as he was perfect for Jackson’s triangle. He’s an excellent passer with supreme offensive instincts and intelligence. Howard? His offensive game is not polished, and he’s hardly known as a savvy passer — which brings us to the second tweak Brown and Jordan must make if all of this is going to work.

    “Very seldom will he catch the ball at the elbow and have to be the quarterback there”.

    I’m pretty sure he refers to Howard, not Gasol. Reading is fundamental.

  14. manchestermiracle - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    Matt, it’s because practice is over and the balls are being collected by the equipment manager. Let the season start and then we’ll see who’s dishing the rock. The Lakers didn’t go to the trouble of acquiring Nash to not run the offense through him. This is the first time in a long time (if ever) Nash has been surrounded by this level of talent. He won’t have to be involved in every play on every possession, but make no mistake: Nash will run the offense with or without the ball.

  15. lakerluver - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    @ocgunslinger, totally agree, Bro. But let’s not be so hard on paulie53IQ. We don’t want to run the poor guy away, his uninformed, homophobic, mindless rants are priceless. Plus, it’s obvious that we’re the only “friends” this poor SOB has. Let him have his say. He’s wrong 99% of the time anyway. For example: Dwight won’t be a LAKER is just one of the “gems” he constantly posted….all the way up to the day Dwight became a LAKER!

  16. paulhargis53 - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    oooh, you got me there occumslinger!

    Jesus, lakerswallower, after another verbal beating on a different thread, letting you once again know what I was up to on these posts, you last one day,ONE? And you respond with crap like I have no friends? I’ll give you the Howard thing, its the only time I was wrong, I don’t blame you for clinging to it.

    Go away little girl, its just going to get uglier for you going forward.

  17. jerdogthompson - Oct 14, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    I just watched the replay of the Utah Lakers game. Outside if a few minor Kobe/Gasoft highlights the team does not look very good. Nash especially looked like he was being forced into bad situations that lead to easy turnovers. Yeah it’s preseason, however, these are meant to sharpen the team for the regular season that is a mere two weeks away.

    Seeing Jordan and Howard sitting on the bench can’t be a good sign. A herniated disk for Jordan (that according to his own doctor has potential to be worse than D12 as its closer to his pelvis) can spell real trouble for all you Homers this year. Sacre looked OK against the Utah 2nd/3rd unit but I would suspect Gasoft will play extended minutes at the 5 meaning AJ will move to the 4. Speaking of AJ, he didn’t look all that impressive on the floor either.

    I mean I really hope they get better, I don’t think they will present much of a challenge for the other NBA elite teams. Beating the Lakers as they currently look won’t be that much fun.

  18. jerdogthompson - Oct 15, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Unlike you big boy, I have a job that doesn’t require working weekends.

    I’m certain whatever fast food joint you’re slinging burgers at requires such. To insinuate that I don’t have a job because I’m posting comments on a Sunday says you’re;

    A)burger flipper
    B)living in you’re parents basement
    C)a fifteen year old
    D)all the above

    Now which is it?

  19. blueintown - Oct 15, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    E) I wasn’t talking to you, sunshine. But judging from the time of your post, I can see you must take your ever-so important job very seriously.

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