When Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were paired together in 2012, the Lakers and much of the NBA assumed they would become a dynamic backcourt.
It still hasn’t happened.
Injuries largely prevented it, and now Bryant and Nash are back again, trying to find their chemistry as the Lakers’ starting guards.
They haven’t played a game together since March 30, 2013, and are trying to reconnect and rebuild that trust in training camp. The Lakers’ eight-game exhibition season begins Monday against Denver in San Diego.
“In some ways, there are some moments where it’s seamless,” Nash said of playing with Bryant. “And in other ways, we’re still figuring our way together because we haven’t played that many games together and we’ve played together in three different offenses now. So it’s always kind of been in flux and adjustments.”
Bryant, 36, and Nash, 40, first played together when Mike Brown was the Lakers’ coach. But then Mike D’Antoni became the coach and another system was installed.
Then D’Antoni resigned and Byron Scott was hired, establishing a Princeton offense predicated on ball movement and motion.
Despite the fact they never played in the same game last season, Bryant doesn’t see any problems bonding with Nash.
“It’s never been something that’s been difficult,” he said. “It’s extremely, extremely easy. We see a lot of the same things, as far as getting to the right spots. It’s effortless.”
Bryant missed the first 19 games last season recovering from a left Achilles’ tendon injury, returned to play six games and then sat out the rest of the way because of a fractured left knee. Nash missed 64 games with recurring nerve damage in his back.
Scott said he was “ecstatic” with the way Bryant and Nash looked in training camp.
“They’ve exceeded my expectations,” he said. “They came in in much better condition than I thought they would. The rust has got off a lot quicker than I thought it would. Now, both guys are still a little ways away obviously, but right now to be where they are at this time, I’m extremely happy.”
Who’s the sixth?
With Nick Young sidelined until at least mid-November, who will provide scoring punch off the bench?
“I don’t know yet,” Scott said. “We’re just going to really have to figure that out.”
Young averaged a career-high 17.9 points last season but will miss about 10 to 15 games because of a torn ligament in his right thumb.
A logical backup plan would be Xavier Henry, but he has been sidelined all of training camp because of back spasms.
Ryan Kelly sat out another practice because of a strained hamstring. Nash took part in most of Sunday’s practice after sustaining a slightly sprained ankle the previous day.