Nash, Lakers form unlikely team to chase title

EL SEGUNDO, Calif — If the Lakers win the NBA championship this season, picture the newest Laker point guard, Steve Nash, leading the celebration at Staples Center. It may not be Shaquille O’Neal yelling “CAN YOU DIG IT?” over and over to a crowd of about a half-million gathered on Figueroa and Chick Hearn Court. But Nash promises it will be unforgettable.

“I would…be the life of the party if we won,” Nash said at his official introductory news conference Wednesday at the Lakers’ training facility. “That’s what this is all about. (Winning a title) is the actual incentive in working out every day, going back to the gym at night, and doing everything you possibly can to be ready.”

Those were words every Laker fan wanted badly to hear from the two-time Most Valuable Player, who could be the key to his new team taking home the 16 championship in franchise history. Nash has never won a title in his pro career. “I definitely could live with myself if (winning a ring) never happened. But that’s why I came here, to try and win. That’s what we play the game to do; the goal is always to win a championship.”

Joining a team that’s been defined by its winning of championships over the past three decades—and before that in Minneapolis—is something Nash never expected to do after playing the past eight season with one of the Lakers’ most despised rivals—the Phoenix Suns.

“Having been such a competitor with the Lakers organization for such a long time, being here now is something I never foresaw,” said the 16-year veteran.  “I think (wearing a Laker uniform) was a big hurdle for me to get over visually as a competitor. But the opportunity to play for one of the greatest franchises in professional sports, one of the most decorated franchises and in one of the most wonderful cities in the world was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.

“If you look at the players we have on this roster, and the organization’s commitment to winning, this is going to be a really exciting chapter in my career.

“I’ve always wanted to win and I’ve always competed the best I can to try to win, and to be back in a position to win is a phenomenal feeling.

“I’m very proud to be a Laker today.”

However, as much as Nash is a winner and is focused on winning a title, the most important factor for the divorced father of three was to be around his children as much as possible.

“I think everyone knows how important it is to have this opportunity to be around my children,” said Nash, father to twin daughters Lola and Bella, along with son Matteo, all of whom live in Phoenix. “That trumps everything, and right (after the Lakers called) that was a huge motivation to me—along with the opportunity to win.  I got to check all the boxes here (in Los Angeles).

“Obviously, it’s not comfortable for a lot of Suns fans, and I apologize for that. It was definitely difficult, because the Lakers have been the most hated (team) there for the last 40 years. I knew there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t understand. I’ve played a long time in this league and I feel 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 to tell them I was going to go (play) back east and see them maybe three or four times a season, or to tell them I’d be in L.A. and see them three or four times a month means everything to me.

The Lakers are hoping to grow into a much more rounded team with Nash at the controls, and club vice president Jim Buss is ecstatic to have been able to acquire the eight-time All-Star.

“It’s definitely unusual to be able to make a deal with a team in your division,” Buss said after the news conference. “And I think this is a great trade for us. He’s the player who brings everything together for us. I’m very happy with the team right now and I like our chances a lot.”

Those chances could increase should the Lakers be able to pull off a deal for Dwight Howard. General manager Mitch Kupchak said NBA rules prohibit him from commenting on any possible deal for the Orlando Magic superstar, but various reports indicate the Magic have come back to the Lakers following the collapse of an expected trade with Brooklyn.

For Nash, though, he feels that running an offense with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum put the Lakers among the elite teams in the NBA.

“Kobe and I have talked and we had a great conversation,” Nash reported, “and we’re really looking forward to playing together. He sounded really happy about me joining the team, and we talked about how things can go this season.

“Having one of the greatest players ever and big men like Pau and Andrew, gives us a great chance to win a title. We’re going to have a lot of work to do when camp starts, getting to learn each other’s games, but both Kobe and I are, well, gym rats and we’ll be ready to go when the season begins.

“I’m really looking forward to playing on this team.”

And the city is hoping to watch Nash celebrate a championship late next June.