Steve Nash: Focus on Hoops

If you watched Steve Nash’s introductory press conference* on last week, you saw him field a variety of questions regarding the details behind his acquisition and his excitement about being in Los Angeles on one hand, and hoops questions on the other.
*Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Let’s focus on the basketball, shall we?

Below is a transcription of Nash’s responses to hoops questions, followed by some editor’s notes to expound a bit on what the two-time MVP had to offer:

Q: On why running the pick and roll is a team concept and not just a two-man set, and on teammates ideally making the game easier for one another:
Nash: I look forward to playing the pick and roll with everybody. The great thing about the pick and roll is that it’s a five-man set, even though we call it a two-man game, because the defense has to use all five guys to stop it. It’s the most difficult play to stop in basketball. When they choose to guard it one way, we can make them pay somewhere else. It hopefully is a situation where the Lakers can continue to play the way they’ve been playing, and perhaps I can bring a new angle to the team as far as running pick and rolls to add to the offense and make us more difficult to guard, take pressure off Kobe (Bryant) and the big guys to make plays and make the game a little easier for everybody. I think the beauty of it is that when you’re running pick and rolls, everyone just by being on the floor in their positions makes each other better by what they bring to the table. The idea is for us to make the game easier for each other, and not just (to) highlight Andrew (Bynum) … Kobe … Pau (Gasol) or myself, it’s (to) all make this game easier for each other and put the defense in positions where they have to make choices that they’re not comfortable with and make them pay for it.

Editor’s Note: The specific question to Nash was which player he most wanted to run P&R with, and his answer shows how he thinks about basketball in a full team concept. While playing against L.A. last season in particular, Nash could notice that the offense didn’t flow smoothly at times, but often relied upon one of the three stars to create individually. That’s not how he likes to play, instead favoring a style that “makes this game easier for each other.” That can help not only on the court but in the locker room, fostering a better team vibe.

Q: On where Nash sees his addition helping L.A. the most, and his theme that he tries to bring:
Nash: I feel like most importantly I can help (the Lakers) with pick and rolls and facilitating, making decisions, making the game easier and taking some pressure off Kobe. Frankly, I think he’s had to take on so much, that it will be nice for him to maybe get a few more easy baskets, to not have to expend so much energy. And hopefully I can spread the floor a little bit with my shooting ability so that Andrew and Pau have a little more room to roam. The theme for me is to try and make each other better by putting ourselves in a position to play to our strengths and make the defense make tough decisions. We have a lot of guys on the team that can score or make plays on their own accord without having to share or to use each other, but the power of those pieces increases exponentially when you use them in concert and can allow the ball to do a lot of the work, allow your intelligence and cohesion to do a lot of the work.

EN: Nash’s “theme” as expounded in bold is eloquently stated and makes too much sense. He acknowledged that there’s a difference between saying it and doing it, but such a plan is very much more possible for a team with Nash than one without. Lamar Odom was able to foster some of that style of play during the two championship runs, but it’s been a hallmark of Nash’s career to push the collective through individuals joining together. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot.

Nash also mentioned how his shooting can take pressure off the bigs. Certainly, teams won’t be able to throw brazen double teams — as they did in the 2012 postseason — towards Bynum or Gasol (or Kobe when posting up) if Nash is spotting up. His career shooting numbers are among the best in NBA history.

On the work to be done towards meshing his style with what L.A. has on the roster:
Nash: Everyone has to be unselfish and willing to work for the greater good, but I don’t think that’s a problem. These guys have won championships, so they know what that’s all about. Hopefully that’s been an ethos of my career. I look forward to it. I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity for us to figure how we best fit and to work every day to get there. Basketball is basketball; people can sometimes get carried away with, ‘Well, Steve Nash is a run and gun player.’ Frankly the Suns haven’t run for about five or six years, that much. (Phoenix was) a pick and roll team (that) liked to move the ball and create penetration and kick opportunities because we never had a post up player. With a post up player, I’m sure it’ll make the game easier for me, and we have a couple of those (plus) Kobe’s ability down low as well. I think that’s the exciting part is there’s a lot of versatility, a lot of different ways to go about this and that brings a lot of work, to figure out how to become efficient in all those ways that we can be potent.

EN: Nash almost shrugged when he said “basketball is basketball,” which could be translated as, “We’ll figure it out.” When you have four guys that are All-Star level players, meshing styles can be easier than having players lacking as many skills. Nash sees the versatility on offense as increasing the ceiling for the team, with peak efficiency being the goal.

Q: On if he has thought about playing with 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum:
Nash: ‘Thought’ is not the word, ‘dreamt’ is the word, to get to play with two guys with the ability that they have, the size and length is a dream come true for a point guard. Not to mention Kobe (Bryant), one of the greatest players to ever play the game. It’s an exciting project to take on to say the least.

EN: Nash has played with some excellent big players in his career, from Dirk Nowitzki to Amare Stoudemire and still-improving Marcin Gortat, but no true back-to-the-basket centers like Bynum, or a player like Gasol that excels in the pivot and can also play in the high post. It’s thus an exciting prospect for Nash to have those new options, as he’s so adept at putting defenses in jeopardy.

Q: On basketball as his top priority and passion:
Nash: I enjoy playing basketball. All the other stuff I do is secondary to basketball. I don’t feel peaceful unless I come in early to practice, get my shots up, lift weights, have a good session and get ready to play in the games. I could care less how much or how little attention the team gets; I’m (focused on) getting ready to play.

EN: Nash was asked what he thought about the increased media attention in Los Angeles, and obviously, it’s very much secondary to him (like his film interests). Earlier, the Canadian discussed the bond he shares with Bryant over hard work, something the two can sense (takes one to know one). You don’t build the kind of skills each has without near-maniacal dedication.