What About Steve Nash?
I predicted at the beginning of the season that Steve Nash would actually average more points than he did last year in Phoenix (12.5). Nash is currently averaging 11.2 points and 8.3 assists (compared with 10.7 assists last season), but in the two games since he and Bryant kind of switched mindsets, Nash is averaging 16.0 points and 6.5 assists. Nash’s field goal percentage (54.5) and three-point percentage (57.1) have been outstanding as well.
Although those numbers probably won’t be the case every night, when you’ve got two guys (Bryant and Nash) combining for that kind of efficiency (Bryant is 15-22 in that span for an incredible rate of 68.1 percent shooting), you simply have to try and duplicate that more.
Can it sustain?
The numbers? Probably not.
What about the style of play? Absolutely.
Kobe Bryant loves to win, and he’ll try to win at any cost. That’s something that outsiders (I guess I’m considered an outsider, so maybe I can’t exactly speak to this) may not fully understand. Shoot, even some of his former and present teammates probably didn’t/don’t understand it–yet.
Because Kobe has the reputation of shooting the ball a lot and scoring a lot of points, he’s always going to be labeled as “selfish” or a “ball hog” when things are going bad.
However, when a player passes the ball a lot, yet doesn’t shoot much despite a high shooting percentage–such as Steve Nash–and loses, rarely does anyone question that player.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely understandable, but sometimes it’s unfair.
Anyway, my guess is that if someone approached Bryant and said to him “You will win every single ballgame for the rest of your life if you total 14 assists and take no more than 12 shots,” Kobe would respond by striving to get those numbers each and every night.
Yes, he admittedly loves scoring the ball, and it’s what he’s best at doing, but he’ll do whatever it takes to win a ballgame; as witnessed by his willingness to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
As for Steve Nash, I think he can enjoy not having to facilitate an offense for 48 minutes as he’s done most of his career.
Additionally, when you have a player who can score with the efficiency he does, you’ve got to utilize that.
Similarly, although Nash isn’t averaging as many assists as he’s used to, he’s not being completely relegated to being just a shooter.
He just no longer bears the burden of having to facilitate all of the Lakers’ offense–which is something he may have actually wanted when he initially chose to join the Lakers, at his age. It’s also one reason I argued he might have even welcomed playing in a system such as the Princeton or Triangle.
However, the way the Lakers are playing right now neither restricts Nash nor places too much of a burden on him–which is ideal at this point.
The bottom line is that Nash and Kobe are playing extremely well off of each other, and it’s working out beautifully.
When Bryant’s setting the table for everyone, it allows Nash to handle the ball less, shoot more, play off-ball and set screens–which is something he’s exceptional, yet underrated at–and make simpler passes when Kobe kicks the ball to him along the perimeter.
Essentially, where the Lakers collectively struggled while trying to use Nash and Kobe’s best assets–passing and shooting, respectively–they excel when trying to utilize the other aspects of their respective games, which they also happen to be exceptional at.
Next Page: Final Thought