Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: July 12, 1:24 PM ET
Lakers introduce Steve Nash
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak welcomed Steve Nash by calling him "a thorn in the Lakers' side for most of this decade" during the two-time MVP's introductory new conference on Wednesday.
Nash hopes that by joining the Lakers, he finally will blossom into an NBA champion after a 16-year career that has featured its fair share of playoff disappointment.
"If you look at the opportunity that we have with the players on this roster and the organization's commitment to winning, this is going to be a really exciting chapter of my career," Nash said. "I've always wanted to win, I've always competed the best I can to try to win.
"To be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling, and I'm really proud to be a Laker today."
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers dispatched Nash and the Phoenix Suns from the 2010 Western Conference finals in six games. But Nash's Suns eliminated the Lakers in the first round in 2006 and '07.
However, a phone call from Bryant to Nash on July 2 -- two days before the Lakers and Suns reached their sign-and-trade agreement -- cemented in the 38-year-old point guard's mind that their pairing would be successful.
"We didn't talk about the past at all," Nash said. "We only talked about moving forward and how he felt about this, how this could work and how we can win a championship and do we see eye to eye on that. That's all that really matters.
"We'll work the rest out as we go along here. I think you're looking at two very dedicated gym rats, frankly. There's definitely a lot of commonality in there amongst what seemed like a lot of differences from afar. I definitely think we can relate to each other's drive and competitive spirit."
The Lakers parted with two first-round and two second-round draft picks to acquire Nash in the deal that became official at midnight ET Wednesday. Los Angeles used its $8.9 million trade exception left from last season's Lamar Odom trade to absorb Nash's three-year deal worth approximately $27 million.
Kupchak said he initially planned to have Bryant speak to Nash as a final plea but ultimately decided the sooner the two All-Stars talked, the better.
"It was a little bit of a risk," said Kupchak, who helped facilitate the phone call through Nash's agent, Bill Duffy. "That's the chance you take with Kobe."
It was the same type of chance Kupchak took by entering into the Nash sweepstakes in the first place. He was urged by Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss to pursue the possibility.
"Steve was at the top of our list in terms of point guards, but it never occurred to me that he would actually be available," Kupchak said.
Working in the Lakers' favor was the fact that Nash's three young children reside in Phoenix, so joining Los Angeles would make him more available than had he struck a deal with the Toronto Raptors or New York Knicks, his other top destinations.
"I think everyone is aware of how important this opportunity is to be close to my children, who live in Phoenix," Nash said. "So, that trumps everything. That right away was a huge motivation for me. And frankly, the opportunity to win. I got to tick all the boxes here."
Nash said his initial conversation with Lakers coach Mike Brown revolved around finding ways he could contribute to the offense to take pressure off Bryant. He also said he's dreamed of playing with Los Angeles' interior tandem of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
"I feel like most importantly I can help them a little bit with pick-and-rolls and facilitating, making decisions, making the game easier and taking some pressure off Kobe," Nash said. "I think he's had to take on so much that it will be nice for him to maybe get a few more easy baskets, to not have to expend so much energy and hopefully I can spread the floor a little bit with my shooting ability so that Andrew and Pau have a little more room to roam."
Nash is the eighth-most accurate 3-point shooter of all time (.428) and ranks fifth on the NBA's all-time assists list (9,916).
In addition to Nash manning the point, the Lakers' offense should look significantly different next season, as the team is contemplating running a Princeton-style offense and has been in contact with former Nets and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to fill assistant Quin Snyder's place on the staff.
The three-year deal for Nash ensures he will play at least 19 NBA seasons and be in his early 40s by the time he retires.
"I feel fortunate that I've had my health, and most importantly, the desire to do it," Nash said. "I still love pushing myself to get better and to produce and perform. I don't foresee that disappearing. I think that's the key ingredient."
Kupchak acknowledged Nash's spotty injury history, and Nash also acknowledged how instrumental the Suns' training staff was in extending his career.
"His back certainly has been a topic of discussion," Kupchak said. "Just by watching him in timeouts, he has to address his health the way he lays on the floor, so it's not a secret that he's had some back discomfort in the past. But he passed our physical [on Tuesday] with flying colors."
After wearing No. 13 his entire pro career, No. 11 in college at Santa Clara and No. 7 for the Canadian national team, Nash will wear No. 10 for the Lakers as an ode to his love of soccer, where playmakers often wear No. 10 on the pitch.
Now Nash will try to make his final play for a championship as a member of the Lakers.
"I definitely could live with myself if it never happened, but I would also be the life of the party if we won [it all]," Nash said. "That's what this is all about."