Kobe Bryant: Lakers’ title chances ‘much, much better’ with Nash

LAS VEGAS -- Kobe Bryant understands the benefit of Steve Nash joining the Lakers. How could he not?

The recent acquisition of the two-time MVP from the Phoenix Suns will undeniably open up the Lakers’ offense and Bryant believes it will improve their championship hopes.

“He gives us a much, much better chance,” Bryant said Friday after Team USA’s first practice in a week-long training camp before the Olympics. “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.

A lot has changed since then. He has never played with a point guard as dynamic as Nash, who is fifth on the NBA’s career assists 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 play-make for everybody and still score,” Bryant said. “I don’t have to do that anymore because that’s what Steve does best.”

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

“It’s not really weird,” Bryant said. “We’ve obviously had our moments, we’ve had our battles. 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.”

Bryant acknowledged that Nash, 38, initiated contact with him earlier this week via 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.”

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


Lakers need to build off of Steve Nash’s signing to get Howard

Video: Times reporter Mike Bresnahan on Steve Nash joining Lakers

L.A. move could be a career boost for Steve Nash, filmmaker