Dave Jaffer is a writer, teacher and social/digital media content strategist and problem solver based in Toronto, Canada.
MY THOUGHTS, in order, after learning late Wednesday night that Steve Nash was the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers:
(1) Holy fuck.
(2) The Lakers are going to win the West next season.
(3) The Lakers are going to win the title next season.
(4) Scratch that. The Lakers won’t win either of those things.
(5) Yes, I would like another pint (I was on the Three Speed back patio).
Like everyone else, I assumed Nash was going to end up in one of Dallas (20-1 odds), Toronto (5-1) or New York (2-1).
Actually, scratch that. I thought it was a virtual lock that Nash would end up in New York. I assumed he’d flirt with Toronto (whom I guarantee offered him the most money) long enough to get the price ($12m+) and the years (three) wanted from New York—or, rather from Phoenix prior to a sign-and-trade. This seemed destined to happen because Nash seems to badly want a ring, and, despite their myriad flaws, the Knicks have some intriguing star-shaped pieces in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony . Plus, Nash signing in New York would allow the Knicks to let someone else (cough, Houston) overpay for Jeremy Lin and not take any shit from their fans, because it’s hard to be upset about losing a guy who has started all of 25 NBA games when you replace him with a two-time NBA MVP who makes everyone he plays with better and who seems to have a lot left in the tank.
That the Lakers might step into the picture and snatch Nash up never crossed my mind. When last I checked, and, admittedly, it was a while ago, Los Angeles was supposedly offering Andrew Bynum to Orlando as the centerpiece of a deal for Dwight Howard . But then they did, and when it was official that Nash was a Laker, we all did a collective, “Wait, what?”
To say this deal changes the balance of power in the West is both an overstatement and an understatement. It’s an overstatement mostly because things that happened in the East actually did all that power shifting.
Yesterday, Jason Kidd spurned Dallas to join the Knicks. This happened for a variety of reasons: the Knicks (obviously) lost out on Nash; they wanted insurance in case they decide not to match what Houston offered Lin yesterday ($30m over four years, which is more than the $24.5m the Knicks can offer him); they need a no-nonsense, been-there-before, future HOFer like Kidd to keep Stoudemire and Anthony well-fed and in line; and hey, if Lin ends up staying in New York, Kidd is a pretty good mentor for a young point.
This is after Deron Williams also spurned Dallas and returned to the Nets, which led to the Joe Johnson deal and will lead to Dwight Howard joining them either this offseason or next to create a second (Northeastern) Big 3. This is also after Jason Terry left Dallas to join Boston.
What does this all have to do with Nash becoming a Laker? Very little. Because in truth, Nash joining the Lakers didn’t restructure the West and whatever power dynamics exist there. All the other moves did.
Ask yourself this: Outside of the Lakers, which Western Conference contender got markedly better this offseason?
Answer: None of them.
Yes, the Clippers rounded out their roster with Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford, but are they really better for all that veteran weight? San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Denver haven’t done anything, and the Mavericks don’t even merit serious consideration, because their window isn’t just closed—it’s nailed and painted shut.
A few years ago, I asked a friend why more stars didn’t move to Eastern Conference teams. “It’s easier to win in the East,” I said. “There’s no Dallas, no San Antonio, no Lakers, no Nuggets, no Grizzlies, no Thunder.”
That was true, then. In fact, going into last season, there were only three legitimate contenders in the East: Miami, Chicago and Boston. In the West, there was San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Denver, Dallas and both teams from Los Angeles. But now look at it.
Teams Built or Building To Contend Over The Next Few Years
West: San Antonio, Oklahoma City, both teams from Los Angeles.
If I’m being honest, I think I can even remove the Spurs and the Clippers from that list. The Spurs are old, which was exposed and exploited by the Thunder a few months ago. Parker and Ginobili, two thirds of the Alamo-adjacent Big 3, can still play, but let’s be honest—Tim Duncan is done. Sure, he’s still useful but he’s not Tim Duncan anymore. And the Clippers won’t belong on the list until they stop doing stupid things and learn how to win all their winnable games and not just some of them. They’re not closers, and Jamal Crawford doesn’t get them much closer.
All of a sudden, the competition seems to be in the East, not the West. And if Nash’s move happened after all of these other moves, I’d call it savvy on his part and on the Lakers’ part—they’d be the one contender in the West that improved itself while everyone else stood pat. But it didn’t. It happened before. If Williams had signed in Dallas, Terry and Kidd might have stayed. All of a sudden, Dallas would have new life, and all the other contenders would have had to take that into consideration. The Lakers (et al) would then have had to make a move. But that’s not what happened. Which doesn’t make it insignificant or uninteresting—if anything, it makes everything more interesting.
Nash moving to the Lakers is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it gives the team the distributor it’s always needed, takes some pressure off of Kobe and Gasol , and gives the best point guard of his generation  a semi-legitimate chance at a ring. But it didn’t shift as much as people seem to think, because in truth, the road to the Western Conference championship goes through Oklahoma City and while the Lakers can now score with them, I’m not convinced they can defend or match up with them. For all this talk of the Lakers being thrust into contention, they still don’t have anyone (I’m including you, Metta World Artest) that can guard Durant or Westbrook (or Harden).
Also, let’s not forget that we haven’t seen anything. As much as the Lakers have never had a real point guard to run things , Nash has never had to (a) balance so many egos and needs; (b) play with two dominant big men. It’ll be fine, of course, but how fine?
He’s going to have to learn a new offense, and, perhaps more importantly, he’s going to have to learn how to play with Kobe Bryant—which is probably the most important aspect of this move.
Apparently Kobe and Nash had a powwow before the trade, and Nash had to make sure Kobe was cool with everything before he said yes. Apparently they discussed how Nash would fit on the Lakers. I’m calling bullshit on this. That phone call was about if Nash would fit with Kobe. Nash was smart—he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be stepping on toes, because I can’t imagine a former MVP still playing at a high level was going to put himself in a position to get yelled at or otherwise commanded by Kobe Bryant like he was some errant schoolboy. Kobe, on the other hand, knows that Nash is the only way he’s getting another ring, so he has to be comfortable (whether he’s going to fake it or not) bringing another leader onboard, the consequences of which are clear as day: the Lakers aren’t his team anymore.
Interestingly enough, though, they’re closer to being a team now.
The narrative of Nash going to the Lakers seems clear, but it’s not. It’s not about giving Nash a chance to win his first ring; it’s about giving Kobe a chance to win his last. And the only way that’s going to happen is if Kobe allows Nash to come into the fold as a leader and not a follower.
Talk about a shift in the balance of power.
 Also, it’s way easier to win the East.
 Doesn’t it seem like every time the Lakers are said to be in talks with another team, Andrew Bynum is the centerpiece of the prospective deal? It’s never, like, “How about Ramon Sessions and a used copy of NBA Jam.” It’s always, “Well, we’ll give you Bynum and…” What did Bynum do to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that we don’t know about? Did he cheat at cards or nail the guy’s daughter or something?
 Only if they get Howard.
 I only added this because I think they’re one player away from being a force, because they play really nice ball. But they have to find that player, and also keep Hibbert.
 And Bynum, if he hasn’t been traded.
 Yeah, I said it.
 Except for another late-in-his-career point who went to Los Angeles for less money than he could have got for a chance at a championship: Gary Payton.