Nash trade a home run for Lakers
JUL 04, 2012 8:17p ET
While the Lakers' trade with the Phoenix Suns for point guard Steve Nash may not be a Matt Kemp liner over the center-field wall, or a Josh Hamilton bomb into the upper deck in right field, it is a home run nonetheless.
Nash signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Lakers to team with Kobe Bryant. A package of future draft picks goes to the rebuilding Suns. Nash reportedly has already turned into a Laker recruiter, as he hopes to convince former Suns' teammate Grant Hill to join him in Staples Center for the 2012-2013 season.
Rumors surfaced a little more than a week ago that the Lakers were in pursuit of the eight-time All-Star, who most thought was headed to the New York Knicks or Toronto Raptors. Kupchak began working on a sign-and-trade deal that ultimately came to fruition as America celebrated another birthday. Nash was a big player in the move, asking Suns' owner Robert Sarver to work something out with the Lakers so he could continue to chase the championship he's been unable to win in 16 seasons. More importantly, he wanted to keep playing in the west, where he could be close to his three children, who live in Phoenix. Out of respect for Nash's great accomplishments in Phoenix, Sarver granted his wish, probably taking less in return than he could have gotten in a sign-and-trade scenario with the Knicks, who reportedly were offering young star-in-waiting Iman Shumpert as part of a package.
The Raptors made a strong pitch to Nash and agent Bill Duffy in the form of a three-year, $36 million contract, far more than the $27 million he accepted from the Lakers. But once Bryant got involved, convincing Nash to stay close to his children in the west and chase that elusive ring with him, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it became academic—and emotional—for Nash.
"He's ecstatic. He gets to be close to his children," Duffy told the New York Post. Besides staying close to his family, the emotional factors included whether or not he could see himself in a Laker uniform after so many battles against them over the past decade-and-a-half.
"It would be hard to put on a Lakers jersey," Nash told ESPN in an interview. "That's just what it is. You play against them so many times in the playoffs, and I just use them as an example -- I have the utmost respect for them and the organization.
"I think it was Larry Bird, he wouldn't have played for them. I kind of have that tendency, so it is strange. As a free agent, you're free to go wherever you want. I have to consider everything regardless of the past or the future. You have to evaluate in that moment."
And the evaluation concluded in LA's favor when he realized that he could be the literal missing piece to return the Lakers to the NBA Finals. He told Duffy that he liked the idea of possibly helping the Knicks win a title, proving all the naysayers wrong. Obviously, though, the idea of giving the Lakers a "Big Four" was more appealing, and Nash will bring his career averages of 14.5 points and 8.6 assists per game to a team desperate for a steady hand to run the offense. Last season—without a 20-point scorer on the team—Nash averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists, while shooting a career-high .532 from the floor.
To say he's a major upgrade over Ramon Sessions really doesn't even have to be stated.
Point guard Sessions was acquired from Cleveland at the trading deadline, and played well during the rest of the regular season, averaging 12.7 points and 6.2 assists per game, while shooting .479 percent from the field. His numbers imploded, though, during the Lakers' playoff run, his averages dropping to 9.7 ppg, 3.6 apg and an abysmal shooting percentage of .377. He was also beaten consistently on defense, especially by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who turned Sessions into a spectator anytime Westbrook drove the lane.
Despite the poor showing under pressure, then opting out of his contract, Kupchak made re-signing Sessions a priority, calling him first when the free-agent recruiting period began at 9 p.m. PT lJuly 1. But when the Nash discussions became serious, it was clear that Sessions would remain an ex-Laker. Steve Blake is currently the backup PG.
Despite being 38 years old, Nash is one of the most well-conditioned players in the NBA, and joining the Lakers' Big Three should cover up his defensive weaknesses. His signing also puts the Lakers right back into the chase for a spot in the NBA Finals, something that seemed very unlikely just a few days ago.
Following another second-round playoff loss last season, things looked bleak for the Lakers. No flexibility; Dwight Howard wanted no part of a trade to Los Angeles; Kobe and Gasol were a year older; and Bynum is Bynum.
Then Kupchack stepped up to the plate—and unlike Casey, he connected.