Steve Nash surprised to find himself with Lakers

By Greg Beacham

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Newly acquired Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash, left, holds his new jersey with general manager Mitch Kupchak at a news conference at the basketball team's headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., Wednesday, July 11, 2012. The Lakers acquired two-time MVP Nash from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for first round draft picks in 2013 and 2015 as well as second round draft picks in 2013 and 2014, Kupchak said.

Reed Saxon, Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Steve Nash knew the scene was more than a bit surreal when he stood in the Los Angeles Lakers' training complex, grinning and holding up a gold No. 10 jersey with his name on the back.

"Being here right now is something I never foresaw," Nash said Wednesday. "That (jersey) was a major hurdle for me just to get over visually as a player."

The two-time MVP will get used to it. After spending the past 16 years trying to beat L.A. in Phoenix and Dallas, Nash is switching teams to chase NBA titles alongside Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers formally welcomed Nash on Wednesday, a week after reaching a deal to get the superstar point guard from the Suns. After several days to get used to these developments, the 38-year-old Nash is eager to open another chapter in his remarkable career — a chapter that will extend to at least 2015 under his new three-year, $27 million contract.

"It's a franchise that I think everybody would dream of playing for," Nash said, evincing his usual sartorial style in a dark-blue pinstriped suit with an open shirt collar and a red pocket square. "It's an exciting project, to say the least. ... I definitely never thought I'd play 19 years in the league, and I feel very fortunate that I have my health and, most importantly, have the desire to do it. I still enjoy pushing myself to get better and produce. I don't foresee that changing, and that's the key ingredient."

Nash wasn't the only person still surprised to find him in the Lakers' gym, where Metta World Peace got in a workout shortly before Nash arrived.

Los Angeles general manager Mitch Kupchak thought he had no chance to get Nash when Lakers owner Jim Buss encouraged him to call Nash's agent, Bill Duffy, in the opening minutes of free agency. Kupchak quickly learned his team fit Nash's two criteria as an impending free agent no longer in the Suns' plans: Nash wanted to be near his three children in Phoenix, and he wanted to play for a winner.

"I got to tick all the boxes here," Nash said. "It was definitely difficult. I knew in Phoenix that the Lakers have been the most hated team for 40 years, so I knew there would be a lot of people that wouldn't understand. But I've played a long time in this league, and I feel like I deserve to make a move that's best for me and my family.

"The people I really need not to disappoint are my children, and (I'd rather) tell them I'm going to go back East and see them three or four times a year than I'm going to be in L.A. and see them three or four times a month."

With the Lakers, he can also run pick-and-rolls with the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history while feeding two of the league's best 7-footers, whoever they may be by September. Kupchak refused to talk about the Lakers' entry in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes while showing off the prize he already won.

Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are already salivating at the prospect of seeing Nash every night. The eight-time All-Star already is fifth on the NBA's career list with 9,916 assists, and his incredibly accurate jumper should fill a major Lakers need.

The Lakers' triangle offense under former coach Phil Jackson didn't really require a traditional point guard, but the Lakers' deficiencies in playmaking and perimeter shooting have been obvious for several years. Kupchak's deal to get Chris Paul last December was blocked by commissioner David Stern, but when Nash's geographical desires meshed with Los Angeles' trade exception from shipping out Lamar Odom last year, the Lakers had their man.

"I look at him as somebody that can run the show — the maestro, the conductor, however you want to say it," Kupchak said. "There's certain guys at the top of the list. It just didn't seem possible we would have a shot at a player like that ... but I'll be the first to admit that we have a very attractive franchise in a very exciting city. Players enjoy playing for the Lakers."

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