- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
In the most critical possession of Wednesday's game, Kobe Bryant tried to go 1-on-4 after a drawn-out isolation with 35 seconds left in the game and the Lakers down 88-86. Nash, along with Pau Gasol and Earl Clark, were left alone on the perimeter as Bryant put his head down, muscled toward the rack and missed a layup that was contested by a trio of Phoenix defenders. The Suns secured the rebound and converted the ensuing pair of free throws to put them up by four. Ballgame.
It must've startled Phoenix fans to watch Nash, their former two-time MVP, mostly reduced to a catch-and-shoot statue. When asked about the lack of offensive involvement down the stretch, Nash told our own Marc Stein: "Those are things we've still got to work out."
Here we are in February and the Lakers aren't quite sure what to do with Nash. He finished Wednesday night's game with 11 points and just two assists. He missed his only shot attempt in the fourth quarter. Review the film and you'll see that not once did Nash penetrate into the paint with the ball during the final frame. In the new pseudo-triangle offense of the Lakers, Nash had been whittled down to just an anonymous spot-up shooter in the Derek Fisher mold.
Even with an uptick in minutes per game, Nash has seen his numbers slide from 12.5 points and 10.7 assists last season to 11.5 points and 7.7 assists this season. That's a big chunk of Nash's offense that has evaporated into thin air. Nash shoots just 8.4 field goal attempts per game, which is on par with Boston Celtics defensive specialist Avery Bradley and half that of Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday.
The thing is, Nash's shot is about as automatic as they come. He leads all point guards in true shooting percentage (.626) and is currently the only card-carrying member in the .500 FG/.400 3FG/.900 FT club other than Kevin Durant. The Lakers are essentially turning Ted Williams into a pinch hitter.
16hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann