The Los Angeles Lakers have won two games in a row, and it's thanks in large part to Kobe Bryant taking over the role of facilitator, leaving us wondering what Steve Nash's role is with the offense when Kobe is in pass-first mode.
With a 102-84 win over the Utah Jazz followed by a 105-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team was incredibly involved in the offense, and Kobe walked away with 14 assists in each of the big wins.
After wins like those, it's easy to tell Kobe to keep doing what he's doing because it's obviously working.
The only problem that stems from Kobe's new role as the team's main distributor is that it seemingly minimizes Nash's role, as he was supposed to be coming into Los Angeles in order to give the team a centralized locale for ball distribution:
Lakers 2-0 when Kobe Bryant borrows Steve Nash's soul.— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) January 27, 2013
Over the course of the season, Nash has averaged 11.5 points and 8.1 assists, all while taking just under nine shots a game.
In the last two games in which Kobe has become the team's main distributor, Nash has averaged 15 points but just 3.5 assists, taking 11 shots in each game.
There's a stark contrast in his role, and he seems to be fine with it.
So, is that what Nash is going to be for the Lakers moving forward? Just another spot-up shooter who can work off the dribble from time to time? Or is there something else in store for Nash in the coming weeks with "Magic" Bryant?
Presently, what we're looking at with Nash is him standing around the three-point line, waiting for the collapse of the defense and then spotting up to shoot if and when the ball gets reversed to him out on the three-point line.
Basically, something like this:
If the three-point shot isn't there, and Kobe is getting cut off before he's able to make his way into the paint, Nash can be used as a cutter, at which point he'll go up and hit his near-perfect one-legged floater.
As far as scoring goes, that's what Nash is going to be doing whether he's gobbling up the assists or not. Of course, he's also very capable of hitting the three off the dribble, and he'll do that regardless of who is "running" the offense as well.
However, that's not to say that Nash is only in the offense to shoot when Kobe can't get a clear shot.
In fact, Nash might be even more involved. He eclipsed his usage percentage rate in both wins. He was used on 23.2 percent of the team's plays against the Jazz and 17.8 percent against the Thunder compared to his 16 percent usage rate for the course of the season.
Go back and take a look at both of those clips, and you'll see that Nash is the offensive initiator on both plays. He's still very involved in the offense.
It's almost as if Nash has taken the role as the hockey-style point man, taking shots from the blue line when they're open, otherwise setting up a play to where he makes the pass that leads to another pass and eventually a goal.
Oddly enough, although Kobe is working his way to more assists, it's quite often in the form of Nash's intermediary.
Kobe either ends up as the guy swinging the ball around the perimeter or gets the ball from Nash, at which point, he drives to the lane to create the collapsing defense and the open jump shots for the Lakers wing men.
While Nash isn't leading the glamorous life full of statistics and assists with Kobe as the main source of assists for the Lakers, he is still this team's point guard, and the offensive activity still runs through him.
If the league kept track of and published the number of "hockey assists" players racked up, Nash would still be near the top of the league.