Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has accomplished a lot individually in his remarkable Hall of Fame career, but for him to match Michael Jordan's six NBA championships, he will need to make some sacrifices this season to benefit his team.
One of those needs to be giving the keys of the Lakers offense to newly acquired point guard Steve Nash. Nash is a point guard that needs the ball in his hands on every offensive possession, and for him to be most effective in the Lakers offense, that can't change.
Nash has averaged 10 or more assists per game in seven of the last eight seasons and has never been part of a team more talented than the current Lakers squad. If Nash's teammates allow him to control the offense, he could average 15 assists per game this year.
Bryant has to realize that he might have to take a back seat to Nash as the team's primary ball-handler, but doing so is going to make the team even harder to defend.
The Lakers legend spoke about Nash's impact on the team in a Los Angeles Times column by Mike Bresnahan back in July:
"It enables me to do what I do naturally, which is finish plays ... as opposed to having to put guys in the right spots and facilitate the offense and playmake for everybody and still score," Bryant said after Team USA's first practice in a weeklong training camp for the Olympics. "I don't have to do that anymore because that's what Steve does best."
With Nash running the show, Bryant will be able to move better without the ball and put more pressure on defenses. If Bryant doesn't have the ball in his hands, the Lakers offense will have much better movement, which will also improve the spacing on the floor.
Too often over the last few years, Bryant has been isolated on one side of the floor and then attempts to beat his man to the basket. This prevents the offense from moving, which makes it difficult for the Lakers to get a quality shot off if Bryant can't get a good look at the basket and is forced to pass with the shot clock winding down.
Bryant needs to realize that in order for the Lakers to play to their maximum potential, he needs to allow Nash to distribute the ball on offense. This is going to be a tough adjustment for Bryant, but if he wants to win championships with his current group of Lakers teammates, this is a change he must make.
Will Nash average more than 13 assists per game this year?
When the Celtics' "Big Three" came together for the 2007-08 season, it was Ray Allen who accepted a lesser role in the offense, and when the Miami Heat's "Big Three" formed in the summer of 2010, it was Chris Bosh who had to change his game significantly.
Bryant will need to change his game as well, but it will be for the better. He must allow Nash to continue in his usual role of being the floor general on offense and allow star center Dwight Howard to get a lot of touches in the paint.
Bryant will still be able to take a lot of shots and have the ball in his hands during high-pressure moments, but for the Lakers to be better this season, he must let Nash take control of the offense.
It would be foolish to deny one of the best passers in NBA history the opportunity to run the team's plays.