Right now, everybody wants to play with Kobe Bryant. He’s winning; he’s assumed that “veteran who can lead” mantle (although he likes Derek Fisher around to play good cop to his bad cop).
A few years back, say the summer of 2004, that was not the case. That was the summer that Kobe was a free agent and debating leaving the Lakers (so Jerry Buss shipped Shaq out to Miami). Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were free agents as well.
Amare Stoudemire was the up and coming star in Phoenix, and management came to him asking what he wanted, Stoudemire told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
“The question ownership asked to me was, ‘Who do I want – Jason Kidd, Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant?’ I said Steve. Over Kobe. At the time, Kobe had a reputation for being selfish and Steve was the ultimate point guard. I felt like that’s what we needed. We had Joe Johnson and Shawn Marion. We just didn’t have a PG to control tempo. Kidd was banged up after microfracture (knee surgery).”
Questions history will never know the answer to include what Kobe would have looked like in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
But the D’Antoni experiment in New York has shown us that his system is dependant on having a really good point guard. Kobe and Amare and Johnson and Marion would have flown up and down the court, but as Stoudemire says who is controlling the tempo? Who is the guy driving the car?
Seems crazy on the surface to choose Nash over Bryant, but for that team at that time it was the right call. Stoudemire saw it. (You can also wonder if Bryant really would have left the Lakers for the Suns, while Mark Cuban let Nash go.)
Which might bode well for the rebuilding going on in New York and the role Stoudemire will play in it.