Lakers superstar Bryant lauds arrival of Nash
Although taken by surprise at Steve Nash’s arrival, Kobe Bryant believes the veteran point guard will help improve both the Lakers and his own game.
Nash’s trade from Phoenix to Los Angeles will be made official today, in a deal that caught pretty much everyone outside the Staples Centre on the hop, but seems increasingly a smart piece business.
Not only is Nash a bona fide point guard, something the Lakers have been missing for far too long, but also he is a leader who commands the utmost respect of his peers.
Bryant, 33, and Nash, 38, haven’t always seen eye-to-eye since both joining the NBA in 1996 but Kobe is excited about what the two-time MVP can bring to the team.
“He gives us a much, much better chance,” Bryant, who faced Nash three times in the Play-offs, said. “He’s a terrific shooter. And shooting is something that was lacking for us. His ability to playmaker for others out of the pick and roll is one of the best we’ve ever seen.
“He has a high basketball IQ, in terms of being a coach out on the floor. We’ve obviously had our moments and had our battles, but at the core of it was two guys who came in the league the same year.
“Myself, him, Ray Allen, we’re pretty much the last ones left. And there’s kind of a bond that comes with that.
“It’s a little bigger than some of the rivalries that we’ve had.”
Reservations within the game remain over whether the two can gel in the same starting five; but Bryant is delighted he is now able to concentrate on operating as a shooting guard with Nash primary creator.
Since Bryant joined the Lakers 16 years ago no player in the team has averaged more than 8.5 assists per game. A statistic Nash has topped in the last nine campaigns.
Bryant added: “It puts me in my natural position, which is that of a shooting guard and that of a finisher. Michael (Jordan) had Scottie (Pippen), who was a great facilitator for him and enabled Michael to do what he does best, which is score the ball.”
For Nash himself the trade is a chance to try and win that elusive Championship, having twice been defeated in the Western Conference Finals while at Phoenix.
He freely admits he was tempted by an offer from Toronto, and the chance to return home to Canada, but LA’s Championship potential – they have lost in the second round of the Play-offs in the last two seasons – was the deal breaker.
Nash, who will sign a three-year contract worth an estimated $ 27m (Dh99.1m), said: “I never expected it but it was the perfect fit for me moving forward – to be nearer to my kids and also because they’re a terrific basketball team.”