Steve Nash's Return Will Bring out the Best and Worst of Kobe Bryant
Steve Nash's unexpected return to the Los Angeles Lakers' starting lineup on Saturday night resulted in a thrilling overtime victory against the hot Golden State Warriors and a ridiculous 41 shots from the field for backcourt mate Kobe Bryant.
Well, anyone who thought that Bryant's shot attempts might decrease with Nash at the helm may want to rethink their theory. If Saturday night is an omen, then Nash's return could mean that Kobe's wrist may be getting even more exercise in the future.
The Lakers' ability to get a 118-115 victory after trailing by 14 points and securing their fourth win in a row could be a sign that things are turning around for the preseason title contenders. But I'm not sure how anyone is supposed to take Bryant's oft-errant offensive explosion.
Remarkably, Kobe looked quite comfortable missing 19 of his first 29 shots from the field, and that may be because he was doing exactly what he expected to do when Nash signed on.
Most people assumed that Bryant would change his game to accommodate Nash in Mike D'Antoni's offense, and to some that meant Bryant wouldn't dominate the ball as much. But it didn't mean that he would shoot less.
Nash was firmly in control of the Lakers offense for the 41 minutes that he was on the floor, and that allowed Bryant to do what he does best, which is shoot.
Bryant shot when he was guarded, and he shot when he was open, but one of the main constants through all of Bryant's attempts was that they usually came at the receiving end of a Nash pass.
For one of the first times this season, Bryant was absolved of the burden of making plays for everyone else, and he was able to concentrate on what he has done better than almost anyone else who has ever played the game.
Bryant has never really met a shot he doesn't like, and against the Warriors there were some mitigating factors involved in his performance.
Dwight Howard was in foul trouble for most of the first half, and none of the other Lakers bigs really showed any desire to fill the void in his absence. Pau Gasol was mostly timid in his time on the court, and Jordan Hill didn't provide his spark until late in the second half.
So Kobe partly shot the ball out of default, and he partly shot because he felt he was in the best position to score after receiving the ball from Nash.
The strategy worked against the Warriors because they seemed dedicated to matching the Lakers possession for possession and score for score. But what happens when the Lakers play a team that is concentrated on stopping their offense?
I'm not sure if Kobe can throw up 40 shots and the Lakers can continue to be successful against a defensive-minded team, but I'm convinced he will try.
On some nights, Kobe will hit the majority of those shots he receives on Nash's first pass, and Nash can in turn expect his assists total, which stood at nine on Saturday, to double when Kobe is hot.
However, the big question is: Can the Lakers continue to win when Kobe cools down yet still throws up 40 shots against superior competition? The answer may determine how far the Lakers will go this season.
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