Steve Nash to Lakers: Can Nash Deliver a LeBron-Kobe 2013 NBA Finals Series?

Joye Pruitt@hoopselectSenior Analyst IJuly 5, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns laughs with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at the Staples Center on December, 10 2008 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected LeBron James with the No. 1 overall pick and the media crowned him the second-coming of Michael Jordan.

Of course, this made for one of the most popular mythical rivalries in the league, because there was another man in another conference that had perfected the art of duplicating Jordan’s game.

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant instantaneously became rivals due to the mere fact that one forced the comparisons and one simply tripped into a pool of them. From that day forth, the ideal Finals matchup was LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant, the beast vs. the best.

Unfortunately, fans have yet to be treated to such coronation for either man, but that all could change as the Phoenix Suns have traded Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for draft picks.

Yes! Nash and Kobe will play on the same team. Not only does this have major implications for the extension of Kobe’s career, but it means wonders for the Los Angeles Lakers’ hopes of coming out of the Western Conference and possibly battling the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.

Can Steve Nash get Kobe there?

Can he bring us the Finals matchup we have been waiting for?

The primary criticism of Kobe Bryant, at least now that he and the Los Angeles Lakers seem to be in “Kobe System Failure” mode, has been that he does not pass the ball. It is not a critique that has just recently surfaced.

Bryant has been mauled by the media for being a ball hog almost his entire career. However, now that it seems like a player like Andrew Bynum needs an extra boost from the Lakers’ franchise face to get him going sometimes, Bryant takes the fall.

It has become painfully apparent that Bryant can’t take over a game as he used to and help the Lakers come out of the 48-minute scuffle victorious. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bryant had three 30-plus point games, while the LA Lakers only won one of those meetings.

Back in the day, if Bryant were to drop 40, he’d be praised for his individual accomplishment as well as how it contributed to the team effort. That’s not the case any longer and if Andrew Bynum and/or Pau Gasol are going to be a part of the Los Angeles Lakers for this era, Steve Nash came just in time.

Instead of having to focus on passing the ball or making sure his teammates get theirs, as Kobe would find it disastrously agonizing to do, Nash handles that. Bryant shoots and scores and occasionally becomes a pest defensively.

By allowing him to focus primarily on his own offensive game, Nash opens up the court for the big men who often fall into a slumber. Nash is a supreme ball-handler with eagle-eye court vision, profoundly suited to get any player back into the swing of his shot.

Before we hoist the Los Angeles Lakers as the Western Conference Final champions, we must first examine their closest competition in the west. The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the Lakers’ biggest threats as far as the 2013 NBA Finals and here’s why:

Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant almost won the scoring title this past season. Kevin Durant actually did. After suffering a scathing defeat at the hand of he who can no longer be deemed the “Ringless King” in the 2012 NBA Finals, Durant smells blood.

Not only was he not supposed to be this developed at this early stage in his career, but it was not predicted that he would get past the San Antonio Spurs after collapsing in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals series.

With the exception of his performance in the NBA Finals, Durant has separated himself as an alpha male in this league and with failure fresh on his breath, he’s back at the drawing board.

A revised and more aggressive Durant is going to be hard to combat when age is working against you.

Russell Westbrook

All he knows is how to attack.

Russell Westbrook may not be the traditional point guard that analysts and old school fans like to reminisce about. Still, berating him for being one of the most influential players in the league is above and beyond the call of duty.

Westbrook is the new generation of point that has taken on the responsibility of the being the floor general, one of the franchise’s primary scorers as well as a beast on the defensive end due to his agility and potent athleticism. He isn’t perfect.

Throughout the playoffs, comparing Westbrook to some of the more seasoned, experienced guards in the west was brutal. He’s young. He’ll learn. When he figures it all out, the sky is the limit for this organization.

Tony Parker

Tony Parker was in the top five candidates listed for the 2011-12 MVP award, that LeBron James eventually went on to claim.

It wasn’t because people were enthralled with his celebrity. Parker was labeled one of the most valuable players last season because without him playing the type of basketball he was in the regular season as well as the playoffs, the Spurs would have been up the league’s creek without a paddle.

When Parker’s ship sinks, the franchise tumbles with it and Gregg Popovich depends on Parker more than ever as we heard in separate “Wired” quotes from the Hall of Fame coach.

While the Spurs are criticized for being old, the head of the Western Conference Goliath is only 30 years old. He has much more left in his tank and being beaten by a bunch of young guys with Similac on their breath isn’t exactly how he wants to be remembered.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the two widest road blocks standing in between one of the most anticipated Finals matchups of all time.

Yet, with Steve Nash the Los Angeles Lakers add a dynamic to the puzzle that they haven’t had in a while. It is hard to think that Nash could take the Lakers anywhere but the Western Conference Finals and after arriving, all bets are off.

Steve Nash’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has pumped life into Kobe Bryant’s career and has given the possibility of a 2013 NBA Finals contest that would make history. 


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