Steve Nash is joining a superstar-laden NBA team with immediate championship aspirations. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Lakers fans may have blocked it from their collective memory, but it was only eight years ago that the newly formed quintet of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace was penciled in for an 82-0 season, punctuated by one of the most bittersweet Sports Illustrated covers of all time with the tagline, "Now this is going to be fun."
It was not fun. The Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start, later bringing in Mike D'Antoni. Nash battled injuries all season, playing only 50 regular-season games and two playoff games. Gasol got hurt and only played 49 games. Bryant tore his Achilles with two games left in the season after he and Howard battled chemistry issues from Day 1. In the depressing anticlimax, the No. 7-seeded Lakers suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
The following season Howard joined the Houston Rockets, Bryant and Nash combined to play 21 games and the Lakers finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference. The franchise didn't make the playoffs again until LeBron James led them there this season.
So if the Brooklyn Nets, who recently brought in Nash to coach Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are earnestly looking to add another star to the mix, they need look no further than their recent hire for the ultimate cautionary tale.
Nash, who has no head-coaching experience and limited NBA coaching under his belt (he was a consultant with the Golden State Warriors, where he built a relationship with Durant), will be given the nearly unattainable task of leading a team to a title in his first season. The parallels to Steve Kerr, who was able to accomplish the feat, are obvious: They were both hired without previous assistant coaching experience. They were both great shooters. They're about the same height. They have the same first name.
Their rosters, however, couldn't be more different. While Kerr inherited a young team with homegrown stars on the cusp of greatness, Nash signed on with two veteran superstars who have already won titles but have combined to play only 20 games with the organization.
And it's that Nets roster that promises to be one of the more intriguing storylines of the offseason. In January, Irving said that the Nets had "glaring" personnel issues that needed to be addressed in the summer (now the fall or winter). The comment only reinforced the theory that general manager Sean Marks and the Nets would go big-game hunting at some point in an effort to add another star next to Irving and Durant.
It remains to be seen who will be on the market, but Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who averaged a career-high 30.5 points this season, has been brought up as a possible Brooklyn target. Another name mentioned is New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. But acquiring either of them will come at a cost, one that most likely involves parting ways with budding star Caris LeVert.
There have been a few breakout performances in the bubble, but LeVert's might have been the most exciting to watch. Not only did he improve his scoring from 17.7 points to 25 points per game as the team's top offensive option in the seeding games, but he also displayed adept playmaking ability, bumping his assists from 4.1 per game to 6.7. In the first-round sweep at the hands of a tenacious Toronto Raptors defense, LeVert averaged 20.3 points and 9.5 assists per game on 43 percent 3-point shooting.
LeVert has shown that he can be the third star the Nets are looking for, but his readiness, fit and injury history (he's only played more than 57 games once in four seasons) are all question marks for the Nets as they look to become a true championship contender. He is mostly effective with the ball in his hands, which could limit his ceiling playing alongside Durant and Irving. He's a good 3-point shooter, but has been better off the dribble than in catch-and-shoot situations.
LeVert's trade value is at an all-time high, but the health issues are certainly on the radar of any team interested in acquiring him, which means the Nets may have to dig deeper into their treasure chest in any prospective deals. Maybe they have to part ways with promising young big man Jarrett Allen or eliminate some of their depth by including wings like Garrett Temple and/or Taurean Prince.
Durant and Irving are slated to make over $73 million combined next season. Does bringing in another large salary mean they can't match the expected high price tag for unrestricted free agent Joe Harris, a sharpshooter who's a perfect fit alongside the two superstars? With Durant coming off an Achilles injury and Irving having missed significant time in six of his nine NBA seasons, the Nets have to think long and hard about whether sacrificing their depth for another star is a prudent move.
And if they need a reminder of how disastrous things can get when the injury bug hits a top-heavy team with high expectations, they need look no further than their new head coach.