Why Steve Nash Is Most Important Piece to Lakers Puzzle

The Los Angeles Lakers and head coach Mike D'Antoni promised their anxious fanbase this day was coming.

The team's rocky start (9-14) was just kindling for the empty blogosphere, fueling an unexpected fire on the offseason's crowned champions just weeks into the 2012-13 season.

And that panic wasn't denied entrance into the Staples Center, either.

Despite losing point guard Steve Nash (leg fracture) in the club's second game, the Lakers' 1-4 start would prove too costly for former coach Mike Brown.

Then came interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who let the inmates run the asylum. Given the championship pedigree of those inmates, though, his decision was neither crazy nor ineffective.

In fact, the move nearly spurred a five-game winning streak. Under his "direction," the Lakers erased that awful start with an inspired stretch of 4-1 basketball. They knocked off playoff hopefuls like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, and the only blemish on that streak came courtesy of a two-point defeat at the hands of the mighty San Antonio Spurs.

Of course, the interim coach was never seen as a permanent solution, certainly not with names like D'Antoni and Phil Jackson residing in the unemployment line.

D'Antoni ultimately got the nod, and it appeared a match made in basketball heaven.

Despite a successful debut, though, the coach couldn't inspire any more spirited play than what Brown had brought out of those same players.

The team dropped its next two games, then seven of their next 10.

Frustrations mounted. MVP candidate (and the league's leading scorer) Kobe Bryant vocalized those frustrations after a disheartening 100-94 loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.

Still, even in the face of those expanding challenges, there remained a relative calm within the locker room.

The Lakers understood where they were at—under the direction of t...

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