In part to rekindle his love for the game and to test out his right hamstring, Steve Nash dressed up and competed in a sport that didn’t involve a basketball and pick-and-rolls. Instead, Nash traded his sneakers for cleats and tried out Tuesday for the Inter Milan soccer team. Make no mistake. Nash never intended to try to make the team. He kind of has two years left on his contract with the Lakers. And for all the limitations surrounding Nash’s injury plagued season, the Lakers would surely miss his presence.
No matter. In the video above, it’s clear those circumstances didn’t dilute the excitement level Nash had for playing the “Beautiful Game.”
“I had a blast,” Nash said. “For me, I grew up playing soccer. I’m a huge fan of the game and still play in the summer time. To get an opportunity like this, I got to thank Guinness and Inter Milan. They were unbelievable to me.”
That involved going through practice and even participating in a scrimmage afterwards. Nash has said his childhood roots on the pitch helped contribute to his footwork, passing and overall creativity on the hardwood.
What would have happened if Nash chose soccer over basketball?
“I definitely would’ve played the game, but I don’t know if I’d be a professional,” Nash said. “I’m definitely passionate for the game and I played as a kid and I’m still a big fan of the game. For me to say I’d be a professional soccer player if I didn’t play basketball would be a bit presumptuous.”
Still, Nash remains pretty qualified to analyze the sport. He’s a part-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer. Can the sport ever significantly grow in the United States?
“I don’t know to what extent, but I definitely think it’s catching on here,” Nash said. “The gmae has grown so much. If you think back 10 years ago that we’d have a ticker on Sports Center with soccer scores, you’d never think that would happen. Now every time there’s a soccer game, there’s scoers on the ticker. The MLS and the league is doing well.”
For the Lakers, well that remains to be seen. They went through a flurry of offseason changes. That mostly involves Dwight Howard’s departure to the Houston Rockets, a decision Nash tried dissuading during the Lakers’ meeting that also included Kobe Bryant, coach Mike D’Antoni, general manager Mitch Kupchak, executive Jim Buss, business guru Tim Harris and representatives from both AEG and Time Warner Cable.
“For me, one was making up for last year, which was a disaster by our expectations,” Nash said. “If I were 27 and the prime in my career and I would have an opportunity to sign with the Lakers, where would I sign up? I couldn’t sign fast enpogh. To look back on his career and say he played for the Lakers in eight to 10 years, that was an opportunity I could never pass up. I wanted to share that with him.”
Nash won’t have that opportunity. But he will have a chance to prove he can become fully healthy. Practicing with Inter Milan signified part of that progress, a variable that still remains uncertain on whether Nash plans to play beyond his contract that ends with the Lakers following the 2014-15 season.
“I could keep playing, but I don’t know if I want to,” Nash said. “I want to play this year and have a great year and then we’ll worry about next year, which I’ll play for sure. After that, I want to take it step by step. Sometimes you get caught up in predicting the future and the future comes and you don’t feel that way. Especialyl after last years’ disappointment, My focus is on having a good season next year.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org