How Kobe Bryant Must Adjust His Game to Complement Steve Nash's PG Skills
You might be worried about a 34-year-old veteran having to learn some new tricks under ordinary circumstances, but then again, not all veterans are equal.
There's certainly none like Kobe Bryant.
But there's a difference between Kobe getting by and Kobe being Kobe. The Los Angeles Lakers aren't especially interested in the former because they've grown so spoiled by the latter. They've grown accustomed to following the lead of a guy who's consistently gone above and beyond the expectations of a typical All-Star.
Now he'll be expected to go even further by adapting his game to the arrival of legendary point guard Steve Nash.
If there's anyone with the kind of gravitas that would spur Bryant to make adjustments, it's a two-time MVP who made it cool to pass again.
It goes without saying that there will be differences between the two, especially when it comes to the divergent approaches they take to leading their teammates.
But what of their chemistry on the floor? How will their playing styles mesh? An assist machine like Nash is all too happy to share the ball, but that doesn't mean he'll go for all that long without the ball in his hands.
Nash has made his living dribbling from spot to spot on the floor—creating angles, finding shooters, getting defenders out of position, orchestrating pick-and-rolls and making something out of nothing when all else fails.
Though he seemingly stands in perfect contrast to Bryant, they actually share quite a few things in common when it comes to dominating the ball; the only real difference is that Nash is looking to facilitate while Kobe is looking to score.
They can't both dominate the ball for the better part of a shot clock, though, and they'll be looking to strike that balance all while adjusting to a new offensive scheme (the Princeton offense). Of course, shared responsibility may be for the better, according to ESPN's J.A. Adande:
In the case of Nash and Kobe, it will help to have someone else to initiate the offense. Last season they had two of the worst turnover rates in the NBA. Nash had a league-high 5.6 turnovers per 48 minutes, while Kobe checked in 11 spots behind him with 4.4 turnovers per 48. By pairing together, they won't feel obligated to force the action as often.
But even Adande concedes that, "It will be interesting to see if he'll be willing to play off the ball and let Nash handle it in crunch time." Interesting indeed.
It's a good thing Bryant spent so much time playing without the basketball and cutting to the basket under Phil Jackson's triangle offense. When Shaquille O'Neal was pounding the rock in the post, Kobe had no choice but to play off the ball.
We'll see more of that Kobe once again, this time coming off screens and spotting up to cash in on opportunities created by Nash's penetration. And there will almost certainly still be Kobe time.
He'll isolate on the wing and back his man down in the post, reprising the role he's played so frequently since Shaq's departure.
But those situations will be fewer and farther between a more ensemble-like distribution of shots coordinated by one of the NBA's all-time great quarterbacks. There will be time for that when Nash goes to the bench or when the Lakers need points in the clutch.
Otherwise, look for Bryant to wait for the offense to come to him. When Nash and Gasol run the pick-and-roll, Bryant will fade to the perimeter as a safety valve when the defense collapses to the paint. When Dwight Howard has the ball in the post, Bryant will get open or cut to the basket as a second defender comes to double.
It won't be the same Kobe we saw last season, but it could very well be a more efficient one. And it could very well be good enough for him to get his hands on that sixth ring.
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