The Los Angeles Lakers are currently basking in the joy of having one of the best point guards in the NBA with the recent trade of Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns in a deal that cost L.A. a valuable trade exception and draft picks.
But Laker fans have been down this road before.
When Gary Payton signed with L.A. in July 2003, swarms of praise fell upon Hollywood over how the Lakers finally added a great point man since the retirement of Magic Johnson.
Payton, however, did not live up to expectations. Following a season where he split time with two teams, averaging 20.8 points per game with the Seattle Supersonics and 19.6 with the Milwaukee Bucks, Payton scored just 14.6 points per game with the Lakers. Perhaps more importantly, he averaged just 5.5 assists while playing with high-scoring players Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Karl Malone. Payton also averaged just 7.8 points per game in the postseason.
The 2003-2004 Lakers season was quite turbulent. The team was subjected to considerable media attention as Bryant was engaged in a sexual assault trial in Colorado, and there were reports of infighting, as head coach Phil Jackson, O'Neal, and Bryant were entering the final year of their contracts.
The Lakers ended up being upset by the Detroit Pistons in five games in the 2004 NBA Finals. The team was basically broken up as O'Neal demanded a trade, and as Malone and Jackson decided to call it quits.
But Payton, who was still under contract after signing a multi-year deal, was unceremoniously dealt to the Boston Celtics. What was once thought to be a franchise-changing signing turned out to be a dud. Payton would go on to play three more seasons in the NBA, but was a shadow of the nine-time All-Star he was in Seattle. It was clear the Lakers had acquired Payton just as his career was on the decline.
Some members of the Lakers organization might have had their mind on Payton as Nash was formally introduced on Wednesday. Like Payton, Nash was welcomed as a star point guard with veteran instincts. Nash joins the Lakers after starring for another team for several seasons, and with the interest of winning an NBA title for the first time -- just like Payton in 2003.
Nash, 38, saw his scoring average drop for the second-consecutive season. In the past two seasons, Nash has failed to lead the Suns to the playoffs.
But Nash may not be close to dropping off just yet. Unlike Payton, Nash hasn't spent a career exerting himself on the defensive end, which is likely to help his future fitness.
In a recent interview, Nash has discussed how he and Bryant are gym rats. While some players tend to give up after they've signed a new contract, Nash appears to be interested in stepping up his game. He is also coming off a season where he shot 53.2 percent from the field.
Court vision and passing skills are Nash's main assets, and those aren't tools that go away. Over the last three seasons, Nash has averaged better than 10 assists a game, and will be playing with three players who desperately need a creative playmaker: Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum.
In fact, the Lakers may have addressed their biggest need this summer: shot selection. After the Lakers traded veteran point guard Derek Fisher before the 2012 trade deadline the team seemed prone to taking ill-advised shots in the playoffs. The Lakers sorely lacked a player who could not only help create good shots, but also prevent bad ones from being taken.
The Nash signing might not be the missing ingredient to winning an NBA title, but the Lakers seem to have landed a more promising player than they did with Payton in 2003.