Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash both expect to start on Monday night in San Diego, as the Los Angeles Lakers open their preseason against the Denver Nuggets at 7 pm Pacific Time.
Bryant and Nash last appeared in a game together on Mar. 30, 2013, and on that occasion, Nash exited the game due to injury after only two minutes on the floor. Monday, however, is not nearly as precarious a proposition for Nash or Bryant.
Both 19-year veterans have been active participants during the Lakers’ training camp, and both appear eager to erase the injury clouds hovering overhead. Bryant has not had any setbacks or scares since the start of training camp, and he quickly evolved into constantly rolling his eyes at reporters asking how his body is feeling or if he has any ill effects left over from the injury: “I feel fine.”
Nash, likewise, appears to have rolled the clock back a couple years. He had a minor injury scare during Saturday’s practice when he rolled his ankle during a warm up drill, but the Canadian contended that he was only being held out of the session as a precaution. Nash vowed to return on Sunday.
“He looked fantastic, best I’ve seen him look in a long time,” Lakers coach Byron Scott gushed about Nash after Sunday’s practice. “Just looked like Steve Nash. He made other guys look better. He gave them the ball right on the target, and they were just making layups and jump shots. He just made the game look easy today.”
Along with the returns of Nash and Bryant, Scott also marks his return to the Lakers on Monday night. After playing 11 of his 15 seasons in the NBA with the LA Lakers, Scott takes charge as the team’s head coach for the first time.
Since opening his first training camp with the Lakers, Scott has been careful to manage both of his veteran superstars during a tough training camp that has thus far been defined by defense and conditioning. Two workouts per day were a regular occurrence in the week leading up to the preseason opener, but both Nash and Bryant were held to a maximum of one session per day.
Also, both were often held out later in scrimmages, with the Lakers’ philosophy being to work both guys hard but not completely empty their gas tanks. “Leaving something in the tank” is a popular saying when talking to Bryant, Nash or Scott.
With regards to performance in practice, Scott has been singing the praises of both his aging superstars throughout camp. In particular, the coach said he was surprised at how sharp both players looked in the Lakers’ scrimmages considering their elongated layoffs.
“They’ve exceeded my expectations in training camp. They came in much better conditions than I thought they would. The rust has gotten off a lot quicker than I thought it would,” Scott said regarding Nash and Bryant.
“Both of those guys shot the ball in our scrimmages better than I thought they would,” Scott said in slight wonderment. “They moved gracefully. They didn’t have any hiccups.”
With the team’s offensive philosophy far from developed and the early focus on defense, don’t be surprised if Nash and Bryant create the Lakers’ offense and steal the show in San Diego.