Bryant looks as if he can still drop 20 points a night this season. That might not be commensurate with the production expected from the highest salary in the league ($23.5 million), but the cost/stats ratio won't be as bad as the steady stream of blank numbers that will accompany Nash's $9.7 million. Nash will make more than Pau Gasol ($7 million), Shaun Livingston ($5 million) and Spencer Hawes ($5 million) and the same as Luol Deng, to name just a few free agents who moved this season. Any of them would have been more helpful than even the 2012-13 version of Nash.
So Nash's salary looms as the bigger albatross, unless ... the Lakers use his expiring contract as a trade chip. That could turn Nash's contract from a detriment into a referendum on the mindset of the Lakers.
Teams seek expiring contracts only when they want to move long-term commitments that no longer appeal to them. For the Lakers to take two years or more of a contract back, it would imply they were no longer committed to clearing as much cap space as possible in 2016. It might even mean they acknowledged they no longer view themselves as the top shoppers who can have their choice of free agents.
Instead, Nash couldn't even make it to opening night in the 19th season of his remarkable career.
Nash will miss the entire season because of a back injury, the Lakers announced Thursday, putting the two-time NBA MVP point guard's career in doubt.
The Lakers and the 40-year-old Nash announced their joint decision less than a week before the start of the regular season. He played in only 15 games last season with nerve root irritation but hoped for a comeback season after several months of rehabilitation.
The Canadian star played in just three preseason games, feeling more back pain in the second outing. He then strained his back while carrying travel bags several days ago.
"Being on the court this season has been my top priority, and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now," Nash said. "I work very hard to stay healthy, and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest and will focus on my long-term health."
Nash will "focus on rest and rehabilitation," according to the team's news release. He is in the final season of his three-year contract with the Lakers, but the club's announcement made no mention of possible retirement.
Nash has played in only 65 games since the Lakers traded four draft picks for him in 2012 in a spectacularly failed attempt to assemble a title contender built around Kobe Bryant
What a season we are in for. I get excited about every NBA season, but 2014-15 will go down as one of the most anticipated seasons in recent history.
There's a new Big Three aiming to bring the city of Cleveland its first major sports title since Jim Brown was in his prime; a former MVP returning from knee injuries to play essentially for the first time in three years; and another former MVP (and five-time champion) dusting off the cobwebs to prove his detractors and Father Time' wrong.
That's just scratching the surface.
I asked a few NBA types to comment on five of the most intriguing storylines of the season. Here's what they said:
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
Eastern Conference scout: "Those three guys -- LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving -- are really legitimate top players. Obviously, LeBron is the best player, but they might all be top 10 players. I'm a big Kyrie Irving fan. He's extremely, extremely talented. He has the talent to be the best point guard in the league. I think he's got the best left hand of any point guard in the league ... He can do anything with it -- shoot, pass. He's done a lot of losing, but I think LeBron will come in and change that culture.
"Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I'm glad they wouldn't come to the team," Buss said during a "SportsCenter" interview Thursday.
Buss was asked to comment on an ESPN The Magazine feature published earlier in the week, in which several agents and NBA personnel -- including Lakers insiders -- said that L.A. has been unable to attract top talent in free agency because players don't want to work with Bryant.
"I read the story," Buss said Thursday. "I don't agree with any of it. If there is somebody that's on our payroll who is saying things like that, I'll soon get to the bottom of it, and they won't be working for us anymore."
In fact, Buss has a warning for all of Bryant's detractors: "I have no doubt that Kobe will make people regret ever saying" those comments, she said.
The Lakers have won five championships with Bryant, though they haven't made a trip to The Finals since 2010 and missed the playoffs entirely last season as Bryant appeared in just six games because of injuries.
Bryant, now 36, signed a two-year extension with the Lakers last year worth $48.5 million. He is the league's highest-paid player.
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
As Lin's yo-yoing lulls his defender, Davis flashes up and sets a pick. More often than not, Davis will go left, toward Lin's right side, which allows Lin to gain traction and comfortably attack with his dominant hand.
"You just have to read it," Lin said after the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Arena. "It depends what the defense is doing. Sometimes [Davis] has got to get out of there quick. Sometimes he can meander around behind for a pop."
If Davis' defender comes up to trap Lin, or "show" with a hard hedge, Davis will slip the screen and dart to the rim. Lin can then pull up for a midrange jumper, hit Davis with a bounce pass or find the open man on the weak side as an opposing defender likely collapses into the paint to stop Davis from scoring undeterred.
But if Davis' defender drops back and hangs around the free throw line, Lin has the speed and ballhandling ability to pick up momentum off the dribble and blaze past the slower big man into the paint. From there, he can lay the ball in, dish to a trailing Davis or kick out to a weakside spot-up shooter (usually Wayne Ellington or Wesley Johnson).
The effectiveness of the game's bread-and-butter play best materialized in the fourth quarter with 3:22 left.
As Lin reset the offense on the right side of the floor after a Roscoe Smith offensive rebound, Davis came up on Lin's right side and screened his defender, C.J. McCollum. After taking McCollum out of the play, Davis rolled to the rim, and his defender, Meyers Leonard, stepped up to contest Lin.
The outcome was predictable, yet virtually unstoppable.
Lin threw a soft lob with his right hand and Davis flushed it home, giving the Lakers a commanding 88-75 lead with 3:16 left.
ONTARIO, Calif. -- Rookie Julius Randle scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin added 13 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game Wednesday night.
Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson scored 11 points apiece for the Lakers (3-4), who played a solid defensive game and surged in the fourth quarter despite 18 turnovers. Los Angeles won without Kobe Bryant, who sat out to rest.
Portland center Chris Kaman scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half against his former Lakers teammates.
"I just think he needs some rest," Scott said before Wednesday's game. "I think he's shown me enough. I think we're all pretty happy with where he is."
Scott was especially pleased with Bryant's conditioning in the team's previous two preseason games, as Bryant played 32 minutes in the Lakers' 98-91 win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday and 34 minutes in the team's 114-108 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
"I think each game I wanted to see if he just got stronger," Scott said. "That's why the last couple games I've been playing him more in the second half -- later in the second quarters and later in the fourth quarters, just seeing how his body would react. From what I saw the last couple games, he's getting that lift. He just looked strong down the stretch, and I thought that was important.
"Like I said, endurance-wise I think he's there. He's in great physical condition. So these last two games, it was more of let's rest it and let's be happy with that, and then we'll move forward and get ready with the four days of work we have to do to get ready for Houston."