Steve Nash has been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, giving us a stunning piece of news on this July 4 holiday. Join me as I try to process what just happened.
The Lakers: This is pretty obvious, of course, but it's still worth pointing out. At its most basic level, trading for Nash ensures that the final years of Kobe Bryant's career won't be wasted with a slow, "Bad Boys" Pistons-like descent into mediocrity. The five-game series loss to the Thunder concluded a year where Bryant was about as good as could reasonably be expected, but it still wasn't enough. They needed to do something to preserve Bryant's prime, and acquiring Nash is just the trick.
More importantly, Nash gives the Lakers their best chance to transition Bryant into more of a complimentary player. Freed from the shackles of the triangle, Bryant demanded more isolations than ever last year, and while he put in a lot of points, he also took lots of shots and monopolized the ball. That way of playing wasn't going to get it done for the Lakers in the future, but the only chance they had to convince Bryant otherwise was to acquire a point guard whose greatness he could respect. The only two real choices on the market? Deron Williams and Nash.
It'll require a huge adjustment on Bryant's part, but the only way he even thinks to make the adjustment is if he's doing it for someone like Nash.
Steve Nash: He played this thing perfectly throughout. Toronto and New York seemed like cool destinations, but Los Angeles was still his best option, both personally and professionally. He could have very easily accepted the Raptors' lucrative offer and settled for a suboptimal situation. Instead, he stayed patient, waited for the Lakers to up their offer and got the location he wanted. Playing with Bryant won't be a picnic, but neither is playing with Carmelo Anthony or dragging a mediocre Raptors team to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Kobe Bryant: Rather than see his career end on teams that have no shot at winning anything significant, Bryant now can try to make one more ride into the sunset with a legitimately elite player. His game is not a perfect fit with Nash's -- not even close, really -- but it's far better than another run with Ramon Sessions.
Orlando Magic: If the Magic really want to move Dwight Howard before the start of the season, they now have another viable option to the Brooklyn Nets' pu-pu platter. Acquiring Nash may be enough to convince the Lakers to finally put Andrew Bynum on the table in a potential deal for Howard.
Phoenix Suns: It's kind of sad that the Suns feel like getting four meaningless draft picks back for Nash is a victory. Sure, getting anything is better than nothing, but none of those four picks are likely to be better than No. 25 in the draft. Finding anyone significant with that return is a tall order. It's far more likely that Suns owner Robert Sarver sells the picks.
Worse, once the Hornets match the Suns' offer sheet to Eric Gordon, as most expect them to, what do the Suns do? Sign Michael Beasley and Raymond Felton? Bring back Goran Dragic on a deal he probably won't deserve? With Nash sticking around on mediocre teams, the Suns have put off rebuilding for far too long. Now, they'll start to feel those effects.
Dallas Mavericks: Not only did they miss out on Nash, but it was their deal for Lamar Odom last December that gave the Lakers the $8.9 million trade exception they used to absorb Nash's salary, enabling them to complete the deal by sending out only draft picks and $3 million in cash considerations instead of including any players from their roster. Now, Odom is back in Los Angeles with the Clippers, and the Mavericks are faced with an even worse version of the problem the Lakers faced before this trade: an aging star fading into his twilight while the rest of the foundation crumbles around him.
Bryan Colangelo: Toronto's president and general manager thought he could rely on the same sales job he used to lure Nash to Phoenix in 2004, but much has changed in eight years. Back then, it was about the cash and the respect. Nash felt snubbed by Dallas owner Mark Cuban's decision to let him walk, and all Colangelo needed to do was show Nash the money. He tried a similar tactic this time, offering Nash a reported three-year, $36 million deal to come to his native Canada and play for the Raptors.
But this is a different Nash: set in his success, looking for his elusive first championship ring, thinking about his post-playing career and wanting to be closer to his family. Colangelo misjudged that, and now, he's stuck with Landry Fields.
New York Knicks: Sure, they didn't get Nash, but they'll rebound. The price to acquire Nash -- a sign-and-trade package led by Iman Shumpert -- was pretty steep, especially for a team that badly needs role players. They can now feel better about matching any big offer to restricted free agent Jeremy Lin and not have to worry about cramming Nash into an isolation-heavy system favored by both their superstar (Anthony) and their head coach (Mike Woodson).