It haunts me on a nightly basis, and I blame twitter.
Everything always seems so innocuous when you’re limited to 140 characters. How much damage can be done in so few words? What lasting impact comes from such brief communication?
Well, twitter becomes nightmare fuel when you’re suggesting trading Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers. No longer do I fear razor-teethed clowns, aliens who mind control scientists and speak to the President after surviving a Will Smith welcome-to-Earth punch*, and Robert Sarver. With the mere thought of Nash and Kobe joining forces in the backcourt, all other nightmares vanish.
*Seriously, no movie freaked me out more as a kid than Independence Day, especially when the alien “talks to” the President. And I saw Event Horizon around the same time.
I try to assure myself that this horrible idea will vanish by the trading deadline. The Suns have made it clear that Nash isn’t going anywhere, going so far as to say that trading him “doesn’t make any basketball sense.” Not even I believe that – you move Nash and begin rebuilding if the right deal presents itself. But Nash for Bynum, the suggested trade, doesn’t make sense for the Suns, right? Of course not. A team so entrenched against the idea of moving Nash wouldn’t pull the trigger on that – so I rest a bit easier.
But the rumors – goodness, the rumors. Like the nightmare scenario, they always come back. It’s not the trade ideas floated by those attempting to facilitate Nash’s fugue to freedom that linger. Easily dismissed, those. It’s the suspicion by those close to Nash that he may, sooner than later, ask to be traded to a contender. If he wants to leave, we’ll abide him. The Suns abide, particularly a player who meant so much to the team. We all want the best for Steve…and the Lakers are a really good contender. They could use an upgrade at the point. Maybe Bynum is superfluous to their title contention – after all, he’s so often hurt. But maybe he could get healthy in Phoenix, with the Suns’ training staff…
And again, the ominous feeling. Steve Nash in a Lakers uniform. That team would win a title this year. I could stomach that, though it’d be the most bitter of pills. Number 13 wins his title, and everyone is happy for the Ray Bourque-story. Nash doesn’t end up like Stockton, like Malone, like countless players who were very, very good to great but never won a title. He gets his ring. This is not the nightmare, even if it means a Lakers three-peat.
I’m terrified of the long term.
In a recent B.S. Report, the conversation centered on Kobe Bryant’s workout regimen and diet. Kobe, apparently, hasn’t changed his diet or his training in the ways necessary to lengthen his career – an art that Nash perfected. Kobe still trains his ass off, doesn’t eat as well as he should, and adds to the wear and tear that he’s accumulated through 14 seasons and 5 championships with his time in the gym. Good news for those of us in the Western Conference? Hardly. Mr. Bryant is well aware of the need to change. This man has another gear left, and he knows exactly what he ought to do in order to make that shift.
Why hasn’t he done it? When would he do it? The answer is the same: the sixth championship. He goes full-bore because he must obtain that jewel-encrusted golden validation. It’s one more than Magic, and Kobe can never be the best player ever if he’s not even the best Laker. It’s as many as Jordan, of course. Kobe Bryant doesn’t have mirrors in his home – he simply has this picture everywhere:
Imagine if Kobe gets his six this summer. In terms of championships, he becomes Jordan’s equal. His goals change. It’s not about the peak, about training at 5:30 every morning in the most strenuous, challenging ways possible. Longevity comes into focus. He’ll go on the Steve Nash diet. Instead of pounding himself in the weight room and doing untold damage to his cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, he’ll strap a 50-pound weighted vest on and go for a hike. It’s what Steve Nash does. He’ll heed the advice of doctors and trainers who tell him which muscle groups to strengthen and how to extend his basketball days. And the only thing worse than Kobe becoming Steve Nash off the court is the two competing. After all, learning from Nash, being like Nash, wouldn’t suffice for Kobe. He would strive to out-Nash Nash. This already happens on the Suns, and no one on that team (or any team) can be accused of having Kobe’s work ethic. In Phoenix, Nash is the king of fitness. In Los Angeles, Kobe would attempt to claim the crown as his own.
The two goalposts for Kobe after 6 rings:
Jordan, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list.
Bill Russell’s 11 championships.
The second is clearly out of the picture; he’d have to win every title for the rest of an extraordinarily long career. Surpassing Robert Horry’s ring collection is a more likely goal. And the scoring record? Could playing with Nash and the competition between the two off the court give Kobe enough time?
Kobe will be roughly 10,000 points behind Jabbar at the end of this season. He’ll be less than 5,000 behind Jordan. Without Nash, he’ll still likely move behind Malone and Jabbar for 3rd most points scored in league history. Could Kobe play another 5 or 6 years at a high level, scoring just shy of 2,000 points a season to overtake Malone and threaten Jabbar? I want to say no. I want to say he’s too old and that his knees won’t let him.
But if he gets a chance to ask Steve Nash, the answer to that question will give me nightmares.