Lakers ready for exhibition opener

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pau Gasol can't stop smiling. Seriously, every time I've seen the Spaniard floating around the Los Angeles Lakers' practice court recently he has been in a good mood. His Twitter feed is a stream of giddiness and exclamation points. Saturday he tweeted a picture of himself getting his ankles taped before practice. The other day he thanked the media for coming to the zoo that was media day on Monday. The man is happy.

Mostly, to still be here after a season of twisting uncomfortably in the trade winds. But also to be playing alongside a Hall of Fame, unselfish point guard like Steve Nash.

"It's been great," Gasol said. "I love playing with unselfish point guards and obviously with a guy who has his unique ability to pass the ball. Right-left, from here, from there, he just sees the floor so well.

"For me, it's a blessing. It's great to have him on board. I look forward to playing every minute with him."

The Lakers have held seven practices thus far but the Nash era officially gets underway Sunday night at 7 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno as the Lakers take on the Golden State Warriors in the exhibition opener for both teams.

The Dwight Howard era still seems a game or two away as he's expected to sit out as he continues to recover from back surgery. In a mild surprise, coach Mike Brown said he'd start one of his rookie centers -- second-round pick Robert Sacre or undrafted free agent Greg Somogyi -- in Howard's sted. Jordan Hill was listed as the probable starter in the Lakers' official game notes, but Brown said he wanted to see both Gasol and Hill at their usual, power forward positions, so he'd go with a true center to keep the roster integrity.

But maybe it's kind of fitting that Nash has the night all to himself.

For all the talk about the Princeton offense the Lakers are implementing this season, it's really Nash and his play-making ability that will transform the Lakers on the offensive side of the ball.

As Brown said simply, "[Steve] is the one that will decide what we're going to run coming down the floor."

And Sunday we'll get our first look at what Nash will bring to the table.

"Every play down the floor, Steve Nash, if he wants to, he can play pick-and-roll," Brown said.

Figure to see the equally heady, unselfish Gasol involved in a ton of those plays, as well as resuming the play-making role out of the high post he played last season.

"Steve will trigger a lot of things," Gasol said. "He's a guy that will make some specific calls out there for us. But it's an offense that will be predicated on what the defense gives you. You've got to move the ball and move without the ball and make plays that way. So everyone will have to make decisions that way."

While it's being called the Princeton offense, both Brown and Gasol noted that's not entirely true.

"There are aspects of the Princeton offense that we're doing," Brown said. "I'm taking some of that and combining it with some of the stuff we did last year. I don't know what name you give it, but I'm going to think of a crafty, creative name.

"But the Princeton offense doesn't start with a pick-and-roll. So if [former Princeton coach] Pete Carrill were to come and watch what we're doing, he'd go, 'That's not Princeton.' But there are aspects of the Princeton that are in it."

What it really is, Gasol said, is an offense that places the onus for reading the defense and reacting to it on the player. A lot like the Triangle offense Phil Jackson used to run here.

"It's similar as far as the principles," Gasol said. "There's a lot of options, there's a lot of movement. It's based on reads, you always have a counter, you always have an automatic. That's how it's similar."

But of course Jackson never had a point guard like Nash to run the Triangle.

Gasol has seen a preview of what's to come this week in practice. There's a reason he's smiling.