Kobe Bryant: Steve Nash ‘gives us a great chance’

LAS VEGAS -- Kobe Bryant’s a Steve Nash fan. How could he not be?

The recent acquisition from the Phoenix Suns will undeniably open up the Lakers’ offense and, in Bryant’s view, improve their championship hopes.

“He gives us a much, much better chance,” Bryant said Friday. “He gives us a great chance.”

Bryant hadn’t spoken to reporters since the Lakers were eliminated by Oklahoma City in five games of the Western Conference semifinals in May.

A lot has changed since then. Bryant knows it.

He has never played with a point guard as dynamic as Nash, who is fifth all-time on the NBA assist list.

“It enables me to do what I do naturally, which is finish plays ... as opposed to having to put guys in the right spots and facilitate the offense and playmake for everybody and still score,” Bryant said after Team USA’s first practice in a weeklong training camp for the Olympics. “I don’t have to do that anymore because that’s what Steve does best.”

Bryant did not, however, indicate much about the Lakers’ chances to land unhappy Orlando center Dwight Howard.

“I don’t know if they’re done,” he said about more changes on the Lakers roster. “I don’t think that they’re done, but they obviously have a track record of doing things that has proven to be beyond what other teams in the league can do. The moves that they make just seem to come out of nowhere. Steve Nash just came out of nowhere. The Pau Gasol thing just came out of nowhere. That’s just kind of been our M.O.”

Bryant claimed to be looking at the Howard situation from afar.

“I follow it, as I’m sure everybody else does,” Bryant said. “I don’t know what’s going on in his inner circle, what Orlando’s looking for, what they want to do. I just wish the best for him and hope he ends up in a situation where he’s happy.”

Bryant has professed his hatred for the Suns in the past because Nash and Phoenix beat the Lakers in the first round of the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. He’s quick to forget such things now that he’s teammates with Nash.

“We’ve obviously had our moments, we’ve had our battles,” Bryant said. “But at the core of it is two guys who came in the league the same year. There’s kind of a bond that comes along with that. It’s a little bigger than some of the rivalries that we’ve had.”

Nash was acquired from the Suns for two future first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and about $2.5 million in cash.

Bryant acknowledged that Nash, 38, initiated contact with him this week by phone.

“He just wanted to know if it was something that would be OK with me,” Bryant said. “He knows how competitive I am and obviously the history that I’ve had.”

Bryant looked forward to Nash’s deft outside shooting, “which is something that was lacking for us.” The Lakers finished 25th in the league in three-point shooting last season (32.6%). Nash has career accuracy of 42.8% from behind the arc.

Bryant also said Nash’s pick-and-roll playmaking was “one of the best that we’ve ever seen.”

“We’ve had great conversations,” Bryant said. “We all know what an intelligent basketball player he is. It’s pretty easy for us to converse and talk about how we’re going to support each other and what we’re going to do as a team. It’s going to be fun.”

Bryant said he was perfectly happy being on the Lakers. He has two more years and $58.3 million remaining on his contract.

“I’m not planning on going anywhere at all,” Bryant said. “Steve has that same attitude, that same mentality. We’re going to have to be dealt with eventually.”