He smiled when he clutched the Lakers jersey in hand, featuring No. 10 under his last name. He smiled when he sauntered down the Lakers' practice court in a pinstripe suit. He smiled after gasping and exclaiming to start out his introductory news conference: "Wow! This is a day I never foresaw in my life, but just an incredible opportunity."
Don't mistake Nash's positive energy for clamoring the spotlight. He pretty much expressed indifference to the larger media market. He made no mention of his humorous films spoofing various superheroes. He spoke in calm and measured tones.
Nash smiled because he senses a chance to win his first NBA championship entering his 17th season. Underneath his positive body language is a sense of purpose in adapting to what he envisions will entail "a lot of adjustments" in the Lakers' offense.
"I’m definitely going to have my work cut out for me," Nash said Wednesday at his news conference at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "It’s always an adjustment to change environments, let alone teams, personalities, personnel. I don’t discredit what a challenge that’s going to be and how much work I have ahead of me and us collectively. But I think it’s also going to be a worthwhile and rewarding challenge."
The Lakers are no doubt hoping for a rich reward. The Lakers clamored to add youth to their aging roster but reversed course after considering the 38-year-old Nash, who finished last season as the league's sixth best point guard, according to Hoopstats.com. The Lakers secured him through a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix for an $8.9-million trade exception, two first-round picks and two second-round draft selections, which, as General Manager Mitch Kupchak put it, is "the cost of doing business." And, almost by default, the Lakers' offense will surely trump last season's averages in points per game (97.3), field-goal percentage (45.7%), three-point shooting (32.6%) and assists (22.5).
But for the Lakers to truly maximize a lineup featuring Nash, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Lakers will have to sacrifice. Bryant has gushed about not having to handle the ball so much, but how will he feel when he wants to create his own shot? Gasol looks forward to running the pick-and-roll with Nash, but will he be as engaged when those sets involve someone else? Bynum has grown in his post-up abilities, but will he bring forth consistent effort? Metta World Peace showed more aggressiveness late in the season in making sharp cuts off the ball, but will he appear just as focused? Nash's biggest strength involves his teamwork, but will he defer with so much with talent around him?
Nash provided a perfect diagnosis on correcting such possible hiccups.
"We have a lot of guys on the team who can score and make plays on their own accord without having to share or to use each other," he said. "But the power of those pieces grows exponentially when you use them in concert and can allow the ball to do a lot of the work and allow your intelligence and cohesion to do a lot of the work. I think we have a lot to work through in that respect, but the idea and the goal is to allow everyone’s individual talent to make it a problem for the defense collectively. I think everyone’s got to be unselfish and be willing to work for the greater good. These guys have won championships, so they know what that’s all about."
Last season, however, it appeared the Lakers didn't always have that mind-set. Oh, they did at times. Bryant supported Bynum's larger role in the offense. Bynum didn't complain as much as in recent seasons when he lacked touches. Gasol willingly took a back seat as a facilitator. But there were problems. Bryant dominated the offense at the expense of team chemistry. Bynum's effort level remained unpredictable. Gasol's aggressiveness dropped when he played in the high post.
As much as Nash's arrival helps solve such issues, it will also further reveal whether the Lakers adopt the same team mind-set he has.
"We have a lot of things to figure out, but I wouldn’t put anything past us," said Nash, who called the Thunder the "team to beat." That’s the goal, to get to the Finals and win it. We just have to work, and the more dedicated, the more unselfish and the harder we work, the better chance we have to beat them and to beat whoever else lays before us and get to the Finals and win a championship."