Leading Off the Court
Steve Nash does some of his best work before taking the floor.
Repeated information from the same source can take its toll, be it from a coach, a parent, a teammate or a sibling.
"Get back on D!" and "Do your laundry!" on repeat can lose its luster. Some fresh perspective is uplifting in most life scenarios, as the Lakers are already finding in the presence of Steve Nash.
When L.A. beat Boston in the 2010 Finals, the team's core group of players had made three consecutive trips to the big stage, totaling 313 games (67 playoffs) played together. That's a lot bus rides, flights, practices, ice bags and showers for a bunch of alpha males.
It's now 2012, and while only three players remain from the 2010 roster — Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace — each is a critical part of the starting line up. Enter Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, boasting hungry new blood built through All-Star careers sans championships. Can that provide L.A. an inspiring new perspective?
"It can, absolutely," said Bryant. "We're all determined to get there, but sure, the hunger from Dwight and Steve can definitely help our energy."
The energy boost from Howard will be a tangible improvement from that of Andrew Bynum, who had an All-Star season but himself acknowledged that he doesn't yet have the consistent motor of the pivot who has been a staple of the All-NBA First Team since 2008.
Energy is one thing, but the type of leadership Nash is already bringing as a positive complement to Bryant's self-described bad cop routine may be the most important thing L.A. gained when the Canadian arrived in Los Angeles. From that perspective, there's nobody better in the NBA.
"He brings a lot of things into the table, (and) team building and team chemistry is definitely one of them," said Gasol. "He's a player that's extremely unselfish, to me the most unselfish player in the NBA, and I'm glad that he's with us. It's still hard to believe that he's our point guard, and I know we're all going to benefit from having him on board."
Nash provides a calming influence on a locker room, an assurance that he's going to take care of things once the game tips off. His vibe is positive, but controlled.
Head coach Mike Brown loves what he sees, if only three days into training camp.
“He’s a natural leader," said Brown after Thursday's practice. "But he’s more of a quiet leader than loud and ra-ra type leader. You can tell everybody respects him and he definitely has a great feel of the game. He understands how much he needs to learn, too, or he knows how much he needs to listen just as much as he knows how to teach.”
The "everybody respects him" part of Brown's statement is critical, and can be pervasive in the locker room. So few NBA players can immediately come into a veteran team and command such attention, particularly in a place Bryant has reigned for so long.
"(Nash is) very observant, he watches what's going on out there during the course of the game and takes command of the offense and puts guys in position to be successful," said No. 24. "He’s obviously very patient and he works through things. Most of the time I don’t have to say anything. He’s already seeing what I’m seeing."
The latter part of that Kobe quote came after only one day of practice. If chemistry can be instantaneous, the two guys drafted only one spot apart from one another in 1996* seem to have it.
Kobe was taken at No. 13 and Nash No. 15.
Nash may already be in sync with Bryant, but Brown also noted his impact on the coaching staff.
“It helps tremendously," he explained. "You feel like there’s an extension of yourself out on the floor. You add him to the mix of Kobe, Dwight, Pau and Metta (World Peace), that’s a pretty high IQ group that knows how to play. So you’re excited about having him on the floor and being able to orchestrate what you have or what you have in the game plan for the group.”
As such, Nash's impact on a team is felt even without mention of some of his particular skills, from his mastery of the pick and roll to his unmatched shooting.
"He's a great shooter, with great balance all the time, great follow through," Bryant offered. "There aren't too many shooters that come along like that. He's one of the greatest shooters our game has ever seen. Nobody in the league has a shooter at that position like that."
That's all well and good for the Lakers, but before Nash ever takes a shot that counts for the Lakers, he'll have already made an impact on the locker room.