Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash co-existed in splendor in their first preseason game as backcourt mates while Dwight Howard watched from the bench in suit and bowtie.
Bryant has not played with a pure playmaker at the point guard position his entire career, which is part of the reason he often found himself battling against two or three defenders to get off a shot. Nash, the former two-time NBA MVP, is among the all-time best passers. He delights in setting up his teammates.
And Bryant is delighted.
In the Lakers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors, Bryant floated to an open spot on the floor and before he could say “I’m open,” Nash whipped a pass to him for an open three-point shot, which Bryant made. It was just one play in a preseason game, but it displayed what is to come for the revamped Lakers.
“He just makes the game easy,” Bryant said of Nash. “It’s a joy for me. I’ve had to facilitate and score my entire career. I don’t have to do that now and I’m pretty happy about it.”
Howard, recovering from back surgery, said he likely will sit out the preseason, which is different from what he said last week.
“I’m on track (to return), but my goal wasn’t to play (in) a preseason game,” Howard said. “My goal is to win a championship. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Nash will be a big part of that. He and Bryant looked like they have been playing together for some time — and they expect that relationship to get only stronger as the season progresses. Too often the Lakers watched as Bryant go up against the shot clock trying to score over multiple defenders. Nash’s ball-handling ability, scoring prowess and ability to pass will relieve Bryant of such pressure.
“He’s a great all-around player,” Bryant said. “He just picks his spots. He can still score no matter what the defense is going to give him. If [the defense] is not going to be honest, he’s going to make them pay.”
Howard and Pau Gasol will be beneficiaries of Nash’s skill set, too, as his penetration will draw extra defenders and Nash will find them for lobs and easy layups.