Mike D’Antoni leaned heavily on Steve Nash last season, when he could.
A broken leg and an assortment of other injuries kept Nash down to 50 games last season, but when he did play he averaged 32.5 minutes a game. Up from the season before.
With the Lakers moving this season toward a more pure version of what coach Mike D’Antoni wants to run (after having to modify it heavily due to Dwight Howard and the rest of an ill-fitting roster last season) we could see more Nash.
But with Nash at age 39, turning 40 during the season, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti suggested maybe a reduction in minutes, as he told Mark Medina of the Daily News.
“He might be a guy that would be better off reducing his minutes,” Vitti said of Nash, who played an average of 32.5 minutes per game last season. “Because he wasn’t himself last year, let’s see what he’s like in camp. We’re not going to beat the guy up.”
Vitti even suggested Nash get rested certain games, such as on back-to-backs or four games in five nights.
No doubt D’Antoni has good intentions, but it will really come down to the play of Steve Blake and particularly Jordan Farmer. There is a hope around the Lakers that Farmar could have a good year returned to a system of pushing the ball plus pick-and-rolls that better fits his strengths than other systems he played in around the NBA. (The triangle was an uncomfortable fit for Farmar, for example.) That’s an interesting theory, some guys have thrived in this system, but after the chances Farmar has had we’ll need to see that one in action to believe it.
If the Lakers are going to grab one of those last couple playoff spots in the West, a few things are going to have to break their way. One of the key ones is health — Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are all older, with a lot of miles on them, and guys who have battled nagging injuries for years. If they are slowed this season there isn’t much quality depth behind them. Even if it means sacrificing a game here or there, the Lakers may need to get those guys some rest.