LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Nash could have earned more money while enjoying the twilight of his remarkable NBA career in Manhattan, his offseason home. Or he could have returned to Canada, finishing up his playing days in Toronto with an eye toward national history and another career in the front office.
Instead, the two-time MVP point guard is going Hollywood.
Nash is teaming up with Kobe Bryant and whatever 7-foot stars end up with the Los Angeles Lakers for at least a few more seasons of title contention on the best team within a short flight of Phoenix, where his three children live.
So what if the Lakers have been among his biggest rivals throughout his entire NBA career with Dallas and Phoenix? So what if he’ll be in a backcourt with a ball-dominating superstar who has never shared possession with a point guard of Nash’s abilities? So what if he can’t wear No. 13, which is hanging in the Staples Center rafters with Wilt Chamberlain’s name forever attached to it?
Children and championships trumped everything else in Nash’s mind when he agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that will put him in purple and gold next week.
“The idea to be close to my son, my daughters, who will be in Phoenix, was the No. 1 priority,” Nash told ESPN’s Los Angeles station Thursday.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic,” he added. “I think I’m a good fit for the team, and we have a great team, we’re a contender, that’s all incredible, too. But as far as getting over the hump and being able to be a Laker after being a Sun and trying to beat the Lakers in the playoffs all those years, the reality is it was too great of an opportunity to pass up as far as my children were concerned. And fortunately for me, it’s a great basketball situation.”
The 38-year-old Canadian says he spoke to Bryant by phone Monday to see whether he wanted to work together. Bryant took a break from his basketball camp in Santa Barbara to confirm he thinks Nash would be a perfect fit in the Lakers’ backcourt, providing a dimension they never possessed even in Derek Fisher’s best years — a playmaking talent Los Angeles hasn’t seen since Magic Johnson was running the show.
Nash said Bryant thinks he can be “somebody to handle the ball and lead. He also felt that we were complementary leaders. I’m more on the positive side, he’s more … I think as he said it, cracks the whip. I think pick-and-roll, adding that to the offense and being able to space the floor for the big guys inside, I think it’s a good fit. He was excited, and I think that was important for me. It’s going to be fun to work it all out and try to create some cohesion and chemistry on the floor and make all these pieces work.”
The rest of those pieces are similarly overjoyed at the prospect of playing with Nash, even if the club can’t officially acknowledge the deal until the free agency moratorium ends next week. About seven months after the Lakers’ efforts to get Chris Paul were squashed by the NBA, they turned a trade exception acquired during that fiasco into Nash.
Pau Gasol, the Spanish 7-footer whose role diminished under new coach Mike Brown last season, reacted to the trade in a video chat on Twitter on Thursday.
“It will be a huge honor to play alongside Steve,” said Gasol, who is in Madrid preparing for the Olympics. “Obviously I’ve known him for many years now, and he’s been one of the elite point guards in the league for as long as I’ve played in the NBA. It would be a true pleasure to play with Steve. I know he still has a lot of juice in him, so I look forward to that. He makes everyone around him better. It’s an exciting moment for the Lakers and Lakers fans.”
Although the four-time All-Star realizes Los Angeles might not be done making moves, Gasol seems likely to thrive alongside Nash. Gasol attempted to take more playmaking responsibility during the Lakers’ season, which ended with a second-round loss to Oklahoma City.
Metta World Peace didn’t weigh in with much of an opinion on the deal on Twitter, but noted he had just been working out in Vancouver at a Steve Nash Sports Club, the point guard’s chain of training complexes in British Columbia.
Like any basketball fan, Nash is aware of the Lakers’ much-rumored interest in Orlando center Dwight Howard, but he’s not looking to start a superteam with any stars who aren’t already in uniform in Los Angeles.
“I can understand why the Lakers may be recruiting (Howard), but all I know is to get an opportunity to play with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it would be a pleasure,” Nash told the radio station. “Frankly, that’s a lot for me to think of right there.”
And one of the Lakers’ biggest rivalries is even more interesting, too. Nash is among the biggest reasons that the Suns have a special place of enmity in the heart of Bryant, who has often said he can’t stand the Phoenix franchise.
Phoenix knocked Los Angeles out of the first round of the postseason in 2006 and again in 2007, two series that are still Bryant’s only first-round playoff defeats. Kobe’s Lakers got revenge two years ago, finishing off the Suns on the way to their latest title.
“Perhaps we can make each other better,” Nash said. “That combination will hopefully make it a little easier for Kobe as well. A lot of work to do, and right now we can only speculate and envision.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.