Steve Nash was one of three players with a contract intact going into the 2014-2015 season on the Los Angeles Lakers. If last season proved anything, the oldest player in the NBA, at 40 years old, is not someone who can be relied upon, particularly on a Lakers team with a limited roster. Regardless of his injuries, Nash made a point that he would not walk away from a contract that will pay him almost $10 million for the upcoming season. On the other side of the coin, the Lakers did not appear to be interested in cutting ties with the legendary point guard. As a result, by keeping Steve Nash in place on the Los Angeles Lakers, their free agency, in a way, has been handicapped. In other words, his hefty contract, along with Kobe Bryant’s $23.5 million contract, made it close to impossible for Mitch Kupchak to add significant talent to the squad during the 2014 off-season.
Los Angeles had an option coming into the off-season to utilize a stretch provision on Nash’s contract. In the provision, $6.5 million of Nash’s $9.7 million deal could have been knocked off the payroll. Whether it was that the Lakers did not want to cut ties with a legend so harshly or whether their lack of a roster played a role, the team elected to keep the point guard. By doing so, the Lakers only had $30 million to spend before hitting salary cap penalties. Los Angeles has already hit their penalty by pushing the payroll to a $73.9 million total, which is a little over $10 million more than the $63 million cap. While it would not have been the most significant cut by using the provision, by slashing Nash’s contract, it would have given the Lakers more flexibility than keeping, what most likely will be, an overpaid Nash.
When Nash came to the Lakers, his numbers had been declining, but he was still of use to a team with averages of 12.7 ppg and 10.7 apg. During his first season in Los Angeles, he was part of the Lakers’ attempt in creating a super team with the likes of the point guard, Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. While Nash’s ppg essentially stayed the same during that season, his assist numbers, which had always been his greatest asset, dipped considerably to 6.7 apg. To make matters worse, his injuries started to pile up when he only played 50 games during the 2012-2013 season. His situation continued to worsen this past season, when the point guard only played in 15 games, while only averaging 6.8 ppg and 5.7 apg, at an average of 20.9 mpg.
Nash’s time of being one of the most dominant, efficient point guards in the league, and pulling off consistent double-doubles in Phoenix and Dallas, is over. Not only has Nash had his numbers dip at the ripe old age of 40, but he is having trouble staying on the court. It is for this reason that it is questionable as to why the Lakers did not use its provision to, at least, bring in at the minimum, another role player. At best, the Lakers could have added a solid contributor, such as sending a max offer to Eric Bledsoe, who currently is out of the Lakers’ grasp.
Kobe Bryant wants to win another championship. However, between not having a coach for almost two months and, signing a mediocre squad that has only recently reached the 12-man mark, Los Angeles is in trouble for the 2014-2015 season. One of the principle reasons the Los Angeles Lakers have been strapped in free agency is due to their decision of keeping the aging Steve Nash, who may have played a part in a handicapped salary cap. Without question, Nash is one of the better point guards to have played the game. His frantic pace, in conjunction with his ability to score, is what made him a two-time MVP. However, whether he wants to admit it or not, his time is up. No longer can his legs keep up with his pace. No longer can he shoot the ball. Most importantly, no longer can he stay on the floor. The Lakers are hoping for him to return to just half of the player he used to be, to propel Los Angeles to a playoff berth, but unless Nash has found a way to stay healthy, their chances are slim to none. Instead, the legendary point guard needs to do what is best for his team and body — to retire.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey