For the final six minutes of his exit interview with the Los Angeles Lakers, Steve Nash painfully strained to speak in Spanish with reporters. Still, he struggled, he tried and he refused to stop trying his unique brand of Spanglish until the Spanish speaking reporters ran out of questions.
Those six minutes perfectly describe Nash at age 40 with the Lakers: even if he did not have it in him, he refused to throw in the towel until he had done all he could and everyone else caved.
“I want to just come back and contribute to the club the best I can, hopefully on the court,” Nash explained his hopes for his final year with the Lakers. “If not, off the court being a mentor and a great influence and a positive force.”
Nash, who is still under contract for another season, believes that he will be back, citing the consistent support Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak ha, provided him since his arrival to the Lakers. Also, Nash was quick to point out that the Lakers were not exactly rich with options as they were involved in a “rebuild.”
Although fans of the Lakers may cringe when they hear that word “rebuild,” one would have a difficult time arguing against the Canadian, given a record of 27 wins and 55 losses -- bad enough for sixth-worst in the NBA and worst-ever in the history of the LA Lakers.
Throughout the season, a segment of fans called for Nash to retire, and the 40-year-old answered those calls in a documentary film that explained that yes, the money was a part of why he would continue to play.
“In some ways, like with the money comment, I just felt it was an opportunity to be really honest, and backlash be damned,” Nash said on Thursday. “It felt right at this stage in my career to be open and to hell with being judged. That is the truth.”
Nash was again asked if there were any circumstances where he did not see himself returning to the Lakers, and the soft-spoken point guard replied with unfiltered honesty and reason.
"We fight in the collective bargaining to keep guaranteed contracts,” Nash started out. “You know, I broke my leg playing for this team, and my body's never been the same. Frankly, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I feel that that’s my end of the deal.”
Nash’s point was valid in that his injury occurred on the job in his second ever game with the Lakers.
Nash continued, “You know, we signed these contracts before (we earned them). Maybe it would be a better business if we got paid for what you actually accomplish, but that’s not the business we’re in. And frankly, I probably would have made a lot more money if I got paid afterwards instead of before throughout my career.”
As usual, the Canadian’s reasoning was sound. However, he wanted to explain that he was not only motivated by money. “Competition” and “enjoyment” motivated the best shooter in the history of the NBA.
“It gets convoluted because I love to play the game,” Nash said. “If I didn’t have any options, and the Lakers said, ‘You can come play for us but we can’t pay you,’ and no one else was offering me a deal, I would still love to play. And I would play for free (but) not when you have three teams offering you money.”
After answering difficult questions about money, explaining he would help in any manner asked of him—including mentoring a young point guard—Nash took on the challenge of answering questions in Spanish.
After speaking eloquently on tough topics in English, Nash did not change his attitude when struggling to answer complex questions in Spanish with limited vocabulary.
Nash did not have to answer any of these questions, obviously, and the Canadian could have taken a cue from teammate Kobe Bryant, who opted to not meet for exit interviews, stopped travelling with the team for the final couple months of the season, and decided to go on an early vacation to France while his team struggled to finished off a difficult season.
Instead, Nash worked until the final day and earned his paycheck, which happens to be worth one-third of Bryant’s.