The Los Angeles Lakers went out and acquired two All-Stars this summer. While everyone else in the league was sitting around and hoping to land either Steve Nash or Dwight Howard, Mitch Kupchak did what Mitch Kupchak does and made the impossible happen – he got both.
That was cool.
Now the hard part begins.
As we have seen on numerous occasions over the last decade, it is very hard for super teams to come together in their first year. The Boston Celtics did it in 2008, obviously, but they were exception not the rule. Generally speaking, it takes teams at least one season to mesh, adjust to everyone doing whatever it is they like to do, and then finally taking that next step. At least one season.
The Lakers don’t have a year to burn, though. Kobe Bryant has made it abundantly clear that he wouldn’t mind hanging up his kicks in two seasons. Steve Nash is 38 years old. This roster is too burdened by salaries and expectations to not perform right off the bat.
Unfortunately, when teams and players feel the need to win immediately, they tend not to buy into the system. They tend to revert to their worst habits (think LeBron James in the Finals two years ago), and those bad habits are usually what costs them the chip.
Kobe, L.A.’s biggest star and unquestionable leader (still), has one very notable bad habit: he tends to hog the ball. Now, it’s worth noting, the reason he has that bad habit is because for a lot of his career, he had to have it. Sure, his squad was loaded back when Shaq was the top dog; however, from 2005 onward, if Kobe wasn’t willing to take a shot – it felt like nobody was willing to take a shot. Kobe’s innate need to control the ball was a necessary thing over the past seven years, but it’s not necessary anymore.
For the next two seasons, if the Lakers hope to be successful, Nash will need to be the one who controls the ball. And, for obvious reasons, a lot of folks weren’t sure if Kobe would be okay with that.
Today, at the opening of training camp, L.A.’s biggest star made it clear once and for all – he is perfectly willing to let his new point guard handle the rock.
"Steve's a great playmaker," Bryant said. "He has had the ball in his hands too much. In our offense he has more mobility. He can do a myriad of things. We all can. that's going to keep defenses on their toes."
"Steve's IQ and ability to quarterback, it's not something I can naturally do," Bryant said. "I'm more of a scorer. I have to move off the ball and he can do what he does and I can do what I do."
Bryant, 34, said he expects at most to play another three NBA seasons. That would see him say goodbye at age 37 after 19 seasons.
"The closer it gets to the end to more rejuvenated I feel and the more motivated I feel to closing it out the right way," Bryant said.
And then was this:
Kobe: "I don't like having the ball...With Steve having the ball, I get to run routes. I get to be Megatron"— ESPNLA 710 Radio (@ESPNLA710) October 1, 2012
Bryant said "Thank god" to @laireland when Ireland recognized that Nash will have the ball more. There is not a conflict/story there.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 1, 2012
So, yeah – safe to say Kobe is okay with his reduced ball-handling role. He likely sees it as an opportunity to preserve his body over the course of 82 games, and a really good way to get better positioning every single time down the floor. (Which will increase his efficiency, and probably his scoring production.)
While a lot of the folks who are hoping to see this L.A. experiment fail may not want to hear it, a lack of team unity will not be what brings these Lakers down. The only thing that could possibly bring them down is injuries – plain and simple.
Of all of the quotes from today, the best one -- hands down -- came from Steve Nash.
Steve Nash, asked what he thinks at night when he ponders playing with Kobe, Dwight & Pau: "I don't think about those guys at nighttime."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) October 1, 2012
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