Steve Nash in Purple and Gold
Additional Steve Nash content:
Read the press release
Watch the press conference:Part I |
Photos from the press conference
1-on-1 with Steve Nash
Behind the Scenes
If Lakers fans are excited to have two-time MVP Steve Nash set to don their beloved purple and gold, imagine being the guy who gets to coach him.
When general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president Jim Buss relayed the unexpected news to Mike Brown that the All-Star point guard would be steering L.A.'s ship after a sign and trade with Phoenix for picks and cash, the head coach predictably couldn't help but crack a broad smile.
"Once they told me that it could get done, as a coach you get really excited because you've seen first hand what Steve Nash can do for a team," said Brown, his eyes lighting up during an extended Lakers.com podcast.
It's no secret what Nash can do; only his opponents speak more loudly than his resume.
"He's probably the most unselfish player in the NBA and one of the top assist players in the history of the game," said Pau Gasol, presumably set to receive plenty of Nash dimes. "Any player would be excited to play with Steve. He makes things so much easier for everyone else on the team. It's very good news, and a very good time for a lot of Lakers fans."
Alongside an unquestioned track record of making his teammates better, Nash brings the two MVP's (2005 and 2006), eight All-Star appearances, seven All-NBA honors and a bevy of wins if not a single trip to the Finals. He's been long pushed by a unique basketball talent coupled with Kobe Bryant-rivaling discipline towards his training regimen and game.
Before deciding to wear purple and gold, Nash had a phone conversation with Brown during which he asked more questions than Brown had ever fielded from a prospective player. That showed the level of thought the best ever Canadian baller had invested.
"They were very good questions," Brown detailed. "(Like) how we're going to defend the pick and roll ... what we did against Oklahoma City in the playoffs ... to what I envision his role being with us. The things he picked up on were very insightful.
"That's what made it exciting ... he already has a feel for how he can help us in different situations."
They also discussed Nash's desire to visit his three children, who live in Phoenix, as frequently as possible during pockets of the season, a plan to which Brown - himself a father of two - gave his blessing. That -- a great hoops situation notwithstanding -- was perhaps the biggest factor in Nash's decision.
Another important phone call came from Bryant. In recruiting Nash, Kobe stated that their mutual respect and history from joining the league two picks apart in the 1996 Draft class plus a shared desire to win a title would trump the playoff battles with Phoenix that had both thinking about anything but a partnership in previous years.
"For me, it was important to speak to (Kobe) to make sure he was completely on board and he could visualize this as being an effective fit," said Nash to Max Kellerman and Mychal Thompson on 710 ESPN radio last week. "Kobe was great. He was excited, and explained to me how he thought it would be great."
They discussed the leadership balance the NBA's only current teammates with MVP's in the trophy case could strike, with Nash being overtly positive, and Kobe "cracking the whip." Along those lines, Nash is known around the league as a chemistry savant, providing perhaps the NBA's best locker room antidote to a team that has struggled to reclaim the cohesion that helped push back-to-back championships.
Something Gasol, Bryant and Nash have in common is a love of soccer, so it's fitting that Nash will be sporting jersey No. 10 for the Lakers. That's the number reserved for the best playmakers in soccer history.
PICK AND ROLLING + SHOT DRAINING
On the basketball court, Brown is particularly eager to plot what Nash can do from a pick and roll perspective. Among the best to ever run the NBA's most popular set, Nash offers myriad looks in screen/roll situations when paired with either of L.A.'s skilled seven footers. But as Brown explained, don't sleep on how effective Nash could be in a '1-2 pick and roll' with Bryant.
"That's a great combination to play pick and roll, because if they mess up at all, Steve's going to get a great look," Brown said. "Or they may switch, and now Kobe's going to get a great look rolling Steve's guy down to the post. I'm looking forward to (that)."
What makes Nash particularly dangerous not just in pick and rolls but in general? He happens to be one of the best shooters, in all aspects, in the history of the league. He's the only player to ever shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the foul line four times. A guy named Larry Bird managed to do it twice, and four others (Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Jose Calderon) once apiece.
Acquiring some shooting was among L.A.'s biggest needs after two seasons of seeing Bryant, Gasol and more recently Bynum being almost recklessly doubled in the post, so little could be a better answer than Nash's sweet stroke.
Nash boasted a PER of 20.29 last season with a true shooting percentage of 62.5, which includes the value of his 89.4 percent free throws and 39 percent three-pointers alongside his 53.2 percent field goal percentage. The latter ranked ninth in the NBA and first by a mile amongst guards (Dwyane Wade, [19th] was the only other guard in the top 20).
On the defensive end, at 38 years of age, Nash won't be expected to stay in front of the league's top point guards. As Brown described, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook couldn't guard themselves with the way the game has developed. Brown is more concerned about team defense.
"(Steve will) fit right in," offered Brown. "The system that we do have, all you have to do is give focus, energy and effort, and Steve will do that. He's crafty, he's very intelligent, so he'll have a great feel for where his help is going to be and he'll be able to send the ball (there). If he can just do that, he'll be fine."
Nash will be introduced by the Lakers during a 12 p.m. press conference at the team's practice facility, which we'll carry live on Lakers.com, and cover in detail on Twitter. We'll have all summer to break down how further Nash will fit in and to hear from the Canadian himself, but for now, his presence will be felt through the collective smile on the faces of his new teammates and coaches.