Last game, Kobe Bryant passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in career assists. Two games before that, he passed Michael Jordan. Bryant has more assists than any of the other four players left above him on the all-time scoring chart. He has been passing a lot more than you've noticed over the years. So it's not exactly brand-new, though he is now concentrating more on passing, for sure. It is increasing team energy while draining less of Bryant's energy, it should be noted — but the Lakers' loss in Phoenix on Wednesday night showed that trying to balance this approach with his natural inclination of shoot down the stretch is his newest toughest challenge. Meanwhile, Steve Nash has some stuff to figure out, too. As in, what has happened to him? There is one viable excuse. Nash's way is to take a break from basketball in the offseason. It's why he was able to say on the first day of training camp: "I feel as good as I've ever felt." But the tradeoff for that freshness is basketball rust, which has been exacerbated by Nash's leg injury taking him off the court for 21/2 more months. And with teammates unfamiliar with how, when and where to set picks for him to go where he wants, Nash has looked nothing like the old master and commander of the pick and roll. If rust is at the root of it, maybe Nash gets some of his mojo back by playoff time. But the harsh reality is that for how entirely the world has changed during the course of this Lakers season, consider this: In both the opening night loss to Dallas (seven points, four assists) under Mike Brown and the most recent loss to Phoenix (11 points, two assists) under Mike D'Antoni, Nash was basically Derek Fisher out there. Nash was slow, trying to keep up on defense and generally not doing that much. Nash has gone from D'Antoni's oft-declared unequivocal savior while mending the leg fracture — "Steve'll fix that" ... "Steve'll get that to happen" ... "Steve'll make me look like an offensive genius again" (well, maybe just paraphrasing on the last one) — to the guy D'Antoni in recent days consistently references as "39 years old."
Lakers' Nash needs to try a little selfishness
Orange County Register | Feb 1