From the moment Steve Nash walked onto the Lakers’ practice floor, donned a purple and gold uniform and dribbled a basketball, too many signs suggested his foreshadowing suggested on a Sports Illustrated cover would not turn out as planned.
You know, the one where a smiling Nash and Dwight Howard stood side by side in conjunction with this headline: “Now this is going to be fun.”
Quite the opposite. The Lakers’ 2012-13 team featured too many toxic elements that eventually ended in a $100 million payroll banking on only a first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs. But even before the Lakers chose Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson or Kobe Bryant tore out his left Achilles tendon just before the playoffs, Nash recently told Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons that he possessed some clairvoyance that this wouldn’t go as planned.
It first begins with Lakers coach Mike Brown, who tried implementing a complex Princeton-based offense that Nash said entailed 4 1/2 hour practices.
“Training camp was miserable,” Nash said. “We had these enormous practices because we were trying to figure out this really intricate offense. Nobody knew it.”
Well, that was obvious. Hence, why the Lakers fired Brown following a 1-4 start. But with Nash fracturing his left leg in only the second game of the season in an injury that basically sabotaged him entirely with never-ending nerve damage, the Lakers guard already entered the season feeling less than healthy.
“It was a tough training camp for me,” Nash said. “The first practice was for 4 1/ 2 hours. It wasn’t hard. It was just on the court, standing around and it was killing me. I had a bad back. I went from the best shape of my life to the start of training camp to where I wasn’t in great shape, not necessarily condition wise but just sharpness and energy.”
The Lakers weren’t in great shape either with Bryant and Howard experiencing personality conflicts.
“Everyone could see that was going to be tough from the start,” Nash said. “As the season went on, you could tell it was going to be tough. I think Dwight just didn’t hide the fact that he didn’t like it. You either have to decide and say ‘I’m not going to like it and move on or just eat it and make it work. You could tell he wasn’t committed to moving on. He didn’t like it. He was stuck in ‘I don’t like it mode.’ I’m not putting it on him but you can tell it really bothered him.”
Nash admitted Howard’s surgically repaired back and torn labrum in his right shoulder bothered him. But the elements went beyond health. Howard resisted playing pick-and-roll with a point guard who perfected that play.
“He wanted to get the ball in the post,” Nash said. “Kobe can be a pain in the [butt]. Tough beans. That’s tough beans. Instead of being like, That’s Kobe and moving on and trying to work with it, it bothered him and ruffled his feathers. The ball didn’t move enough for him. When the ball doesn’t move enough, it means he didn’t get the ball enough.”
Nash went through some struggles, too. He eventually morphed into an off-ball shooter. After cementing his career as a point guard who made an offense flourish by directing it, Nash admitted feeling uncomfortable. But he hardly felt resentful about it. Instead, Nash maintains he relished Bryant’s scoring and uncompromising intensity.
“That intensity doesn’t bother me because I’m so driven,” Nash said. “I’m not intense in that you rev yourself to get to that level. But I’m still extremely driven and competitive so I would relate to that in some ways. There’s an acceptance to that automatically. That’s fantastic he’s all in. There’s guys who are like, ‘I’m not all in deep down inside.’ So to see the main guy every day bearing you down and beating you down with that will, I’m sure a lot of those guys wilt or run for cover.”
And as a result, the Lakers failed to have that fun season that left Nash and Howard smiling during a photo shoot. Then again, Nash saw this trainwreck morphing slowly enough to see it coming. But he couldn’t quite react fast enough to stop it.