Thursday, July 5, 2012
Updated: July 6, 8:04 PM ET
Steve Nash called Kobe before deal
By Brian Kamenetzky
Before two-time MVP Steve Nash agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers, he wanted to make sure the team's five-time champion was on board.
That meant a phone call with Kobe Bryant.
"For me, it was important to speak to him and make sure he was completely on board, and that he could kind of visualize this as being a good fit, and being excited about it. So I spoke to him," Nash told Max Kellerman and Mychal Thompson on 710 ESPN. "Kobe, he was great. He was excited, and explained to me how he thought it would help, and why he thought it would be great, and I think a lot of the reasons he had were ones I could already envision before speaking to him."
The Lakers and Suns agreed on a sign-and-trade sending Nash to Los Angeles, where he will be given a three-year deal worth an estimated $27 million. The Lakers, well over the salary and luxury tax levels, can absorb Nash into the trade exception created when they dealt Lamar Odom to Dallas last December.
Phoenix will receive four picks from the Lakers -- a pair of each in the first (2013, 2015) and second (2013, 2014) rounds.
Ultimately, Nash chose the Lakers both because they provide him the best opportunity to win a title of the teams interested in acquiring him, and because it allows him to stay in close proximity to Phoenix, where his three children live.
The trade can't be officially completed until July 11, when the NBA lifts its moratorium on new business.
Bryant and Nash agreed the former Suns star, who has more assists than any player in the NBA over the last three seasons, could have a significant and positive impact on the Lakers. And while Nash acknowledged Bryant's history as a ball-dominant guard, he expects the pairing to be successful.
At this point in their careers, sharing a backcourt could benefit both, Nash said.
"Kobe is still one of the all-time great players in this game. I hope he does have the ball in his hands a lot," Nash told Kellerman and Thompson. "But at the same time, I think it takes pressure off him as someone else can handle the ball, and get him the ball in spots. Maybe get him a few more easy baskets and at the same time maybe create offense for other guys so he's not stuck so often having to take on one or two defenders."
The same principle extends to the rest of his new teammates, as well.
"Perhaps we can all make each other better because of our different skills. Maybe I can space the floor for those big guys (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum), maybe they'll create opportunities for me on pick and rolls because of their length and ability to finish at the rim, and that combination will hopefully make it a little easier for Kobe as well."
Another major change for Nash comes in the systems run by former coach Alvin Gentry in Phoenix and new coach Mike Brown in Los Angeles. Brown's teams typically have featured more structure and set play calling.
Nash believes with time, he and Brown can find the right balance.
"First of all, he's the coach and I want to do what he asks. But I spoke to him and I think he'll be open to ideas and thoughts, and working together. That's the great part about the job, is that we all get to work together and find a way to make each other better and find a way to put each other in position to succeed," he said. "I look forward to working with him with the offense, and seeing how I can hopefully help the offense run more efficiently and help those guys maybe get a little more space on the floor, maybe get a few more opportunities to get easy baskets and put pressure on the defense."
There is still some speculation the Lakers might now target Orlando's Dwight Howard, actively working to force his way to another club, preferably the Brooklyn Nets. Nash said he wouldn't get involved in any recruiting process that might lure the Magic star to Los Angeles.
"Why don't we wait until I sign my contract and get acquainted to the city and the situation before I start making trades and recruiting players," he said.
Nash believes he has plenty to get excited about with Bynum and Gasol at his disposal.
"That's amazing. So that would be a pleasure to play with those two players. Frankly, that's a lot for me to think of right there. I'm not even going to speculate on what could happen with Dwight," he said. "As far as basketball goes, it would be thrilling for any point guard to get a chance to play with the two big men that the Lakers have."
The feeling appears mutual. Gasol, speaking to fans on a Twitcam video chat from Madrid Thursday morning, expressed admiration for his new point guard.
"It will be a huge honor to play alongside Steve. Obviously I know him for many years now, and he's been one of the elite point guards in the league for as long as I can remember, as long as I've played in the NBA. It will be a true pleasure to play with Steve," Gasol said. "He's one of the best point guards that has ever played the game, and still has a lot of juice in him. So I look forward to that. He makes everyone around him better, so it's an exciting moment for all the Lakers fans, and the Lakers family, and everyone involved with the franchise."
While Nash didn't want to wade into the Howard waters, he was more forthcoming on a pitch for former teammate and free agent, forward Grant Hill.
"Grant's an amazing person. He's a very intelligent, kind, thoughtful person, and he's still a terrific basketball player. A great athlete, still terrific skill level, and basketball IQ, and just a great teammate," he said. "Anyone who gets Grant is going to be way, way in the good for that. It would be great if we get him, and I'll do anything I can, if the Lakers are open to that, to make it a reality."
Nash repeatedly expressed gratitude to Suns owner Robert Sarver for giving him the opportunity not just to play for a contender, but facilitating a trade to a bitter division rival. He said support in Phoenix has been strong, but understands some fans will be angry.
"I hate to upset people but my little boy and my two girls mean everything to me, and the opportunity to be able to see them three or four times a month instead of three or four times a season is incredible and priceless. I'm sorry for those that I upset, but my kids come first," he said.
One more bit of business might take some thought, too. Nash's number 13 can't be worn with the Lakers, because it once belonged to Wilt Chamberlain and now hangs in the rafters at Staples Center. Nash will have to find some new digits for his new uniform and it may not be easy.
"With all the Lakers jerseys retired, I don't know what's left," Nash said. "We'll figure it out."