The legacy Kobe Bryant has built thus far traces back to when he has won NBA championships in June. Steve Nash never collected that hardware. But his two NBA MVP awards and third-place standing on the league’s all-time assists list reflects the 40-year-old’s longevity, pinpoint passes and pick-and-roll perfection.
Yet, the Lakers’ preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets on Monday in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Arena will provide an early glimpse into how both Bryant and Nash fare through the tail end of their career. Based on how Bryant and Nash played through one week of training camp, Lakers coach Byron Scott expects something far more cheerful than the combined 21 games Bryant and Nash played last season because of respective knee and back injuries.
“To be where they are today in training camp, I’m ecstatic,” Scott said following Sunday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “They exceeded my expectations in training camp and came into much better condition than I thought they would. We got things off a lot quicker than I thought they would. Both guys are a ways away obviously. But right now for them to be where they are at this time, I’m extremely happy.”
Both Bryant and Nash participated in Sunday’s practice, but in somewhat limited fashion. Bryant took part in the Lakers’ preliminary drills before sitting out of the team’s five-on-five full-court scrimmage. Scott reported Nash experienced “no issues whatsoever” after missing most of Saturday’s practice because of a rolled left ankle. Nash participated in parts of the Lakers’ scrimmage on Sunday, but left the court before the media watched the tail end of practice. Neither Bryant nor Nash spoke to reporters on Sunday.
In portions of the Lakers’ practice open to the media, both Bryant and Nash appeared mobile and comfortable moving around the court. Both Bryant and Nash remained consistent with his mid-range jump shooting. Bryant also frequently challenged teammates, mostly to Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson, with playful albeit biting trash talk. Both Bryant and Nash have sat out of the evening portion of the Lakers’ four two-a-day sessions as well as most of the tail end of running drills.
What has Scott seen?
“With Steve, his basketball timing. Everything seems to be there,” Scott said. “He’s shooting the ball pretty well, which a lot of times when you have that much time off, that’s one of the things that takes the longest with the timing and to get that rust off. Both of the guys shot the ball better in the scrimmages than I thought they would. They moved gracefully. It didn’t look like they had any hiccups. I was extremely happy with both.”
Still nothing replaces actual game experience. Both Bryant and Nash will start against Denver, but Scott declined to reveal to what degree they will play in limited minutes. Scott also added Bryant will likely play more minutes than planned at small forward because Nick Young’s absence stemmed from a torn ligament in his right thumb.
“I’m curious to see Kobe, Steve and everybody really,” Scott said. “We’ve been going against each other for a week. So it’ll be fine to go against somebody else. I’m anxious to see how it all unfolds.”
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