Steve Nash Is Making Pau Gasol Relevant Again

The Los Angeles Lakers' 104-87 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night didn't prove that the Lakers are now a force to be reckoned with in the West since Steve Nash returned to the lineup, but it sure was an illustration of how Nash makes life easier for the rest of his teammates.

So easy, in fact, that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were able to watch the entire fourth quarter of the game from the sidelines since the game was virtually decided after the first three quarters.

Nash has lifted the play-making responsibility from Bryant and allowed him to concentrate more on defense and scoring the ball.

Howard has found more of a rhythm on offense playing alongside Nash, and the energy Nash has injected may also be responsible for Howard's inspired, yet inconsistent moments on the defensive end lately.

Nash has certainly caused a drop in the stress level of the Lakers with his return, but no other player is probably more grateful than Pau Gasol.

Gasol turned in a complete performance against the Trail Blazers, finishing the game with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. But more importantly, he looked more comfortable and confident than he has in a long while.

Gasol's rebirth couldn't have come at a better time for the Lakers. While Howard, Bryant and Nash may get all of the press, Gasol's impact on both ends of the floor could be the determining factor on how far the Lakers can advance in the postseason, if they reach it.

Nash is the engine that makes the Lakers go, but Gasol serves somewhat the same purpose as a catalyst for the team's interior attack, as his five assists in each of the past five games attests.

Gasol is more skilled and versatile than Howard, but he needed a player like Nash to ease the pressure and allow the dynamics of his game to shine through. He will probably never be an 18-point-per-game score...

About the Author