Nash dishes on retirement, health and soccer
July, 30, 2013
By Dave McMenamin
It has been an interesting offseason for the remaining active members of the famed NBA draft class of 1996.
Marcus Camby, the No. 2 pick that year, was traded from New York to Toronto -- the team that selected him way back when -- and was summarily waived when he made it clear he had no desire to bookend his career with another run with the Raptors. The Houston Rockets snatched the 39-year-old Camby up on a one-year deal once he was available.
Ray Allen, the No. 5 pick, is still basking in the glow of his championship run with the Miami Heat, made possible thanks in large part to his already-legendary corner 3-pointer late in Game 6 of the Finals. The 3 tied the game, and the Heat, of course, won in overtime and then won Game 7.
Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesSteve Nash, who says he still dreams "every day" about playing professional soccer, is eager to make up for an injury-plagued season with the Lakers.
Jermaine O'Neal, the No. 17 pick, signed a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. Derek Fisher, the No. 24 pick, signed a one-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a source close to the five-time champion told ESPNLA.com that Fisher plans to retire after the season.
And speaking of retirement, what about that Los Angeles Lakers backcourt full of '96ers?
Kobe Bryant, who like O'Neal is younger than the rest of his classmates because he joined the league straight out of high school, told multiple media outlets he plans to play three more years, and even stretched that timeline to three or four more years during an interview while on a Nike-sponsored trip to Brazil.
As for his backcourt mate, Steve Nash?
"I don't really want to think about it," Nash told ESPNLosAngeles.com during a phone interview from New York on Tuesday. Nash was in the city to promote the Guinness International Champions Cup and had a "tryout" with soccer team Inter Milan as part of the event. (From the way Nash described it, it was more like when Garth Brooks was in spring training with the San Diego Padres than a serious audition.)
"I want to concentrate on this season and have a great season, and then next year I'll worry about next year. After that, there's a chance I could keep playing, but I'm totally open to not playing or playing again, and I don't really want to predict. I just want to concentrate on the now and worry about the future when it arrives."
The fact that Nash, 39, is running around a soccer pitch and even considering extending his career further into his 40s than the two years remaining on his contract is an encouraging sign for the veteran who missed 32 regular-season games plus two playoff games last season because of a fractured fibula in his left leg followed by lingering nerve discomfort.
"It's coming along nicely," Nash said of his health. "I'm not 100 percent, but it's getting close. In the next two months, for sure, but I imagine in the next two to three weeks I'll be 100 percent, and that gives me another month [before training camp] to get even better. The fortunate thing about it is it's been mostly a nerve situation I'm dealing with, and nerves take time, but I've been able to work around it and work to strengthen different areas. So it's not like I've been waiting and waiting for something to heal. I've been waiting in one respect for the nerves to settle down, but I've also been strengthening in other areas and I've been on the court, too. So I had a really good summer."
Nash says he doesn't believe any further invasive procedures will be necessary.
"We tried the two epidurals during the playoffs and there was some release, but not completely," Nash said. "We're hoping to get to a point where we don't need to try that again because it's a little bit of a hit and hope with the epidural. There is release, so I shouldn't say hit and hope -- the doctors will be pissed at me -- there is release, but it's not the cure. So I think they'd like to settle it completely down and then work with my biomechanics to keep that nerve from being compromised again."
Nash will follow up his soccer excursion with a week in Toronto running a training camp in his role as the general manager of the Canadian national basketball team. After that, he'll endure a personal two-week boot camp in Vancouver before returning to L.A. in September ahead of Lakers training camp. Nash says he's ready to make up for last season, even if there's no Dwight Howard in the fold.
"I'm excited," Nash said. "There wasn't a lot of stuff we could do with our salary-cap situation, so to bring in the guys that we did -- Jordan [Farmar], [Nick] Young, [Wes] Johnson and [Chris] Kaman -- I think were great additions. I also think Kurt Rambis is a great addition and [Mark] Madsen, so on and so forth. So I'm excited. I'm looking forward to getting back to work."
Until then, Nash enjoyed a day playing out a fantasy.
"My dad played [soccer] professionally in South Africa and my brother played professionally in the States, Canada and England," said Nash, who wears No. 10 for the Lakers because that is the number playmakers traditionally wear in soccer. "I dream about [playing professional soccer] every day. My brother-in-law always says to me, 'Give up the dream. It's getting tired.' But it's a hard thing to give up when I grew up with the game. My first word was 'goal.' I grew up in a soccer household, and it's still very important to me even though I ended up going in a different direction."