Steve Nash ready to step up as Lakers playmaker -- can he do it?

"No. 10," Nash says, "Because traditionally in soccer that's the number the playmaker wears."

The conversation shifts to Beckham, so it's going downhill.

It gets worse when a soccer party of 12- and 13-year-old girls notices Nash. The girls are overwhelmed, and they are not quiet about it.

Nash picks up the tape recorder and offers to hold it in front of his mouth for the remainder of the interview. Maybe he just wants to make sure he doesn't have to do the interview again. Or maybe he's just the most considerate athlete one has met.

Later he agrees to join the girls for a team picture, a line of parents asking everyone to remain still while they take picture after picture.

The girls ask if they might pose with Nash one by one. He reacts as if he's been waiting all day for such an invite. He's beyond cool.

It's no surprise after reading about him online. There's a blog detailing a visit with a group of teens who are dealing with cancer.

"We all have disabilities," he tells them. "And yet we all have tremendous good in each one of us. Each of you here is a superstar with a lion's heart. Stay strong."

I ask him about the visit. It's no one-time photo opportunity. It's all part of who he is. The Steve Nash Foundation has raised millions for underserved children.

"It's the way I was raised," he says in crediting his parents. "I remember my dad working with Special Olympics and wiping the bum of a child who needed help.

"It's something that sticks with you; now I'm not going around wiping bums, but there are things that can be done."

By now he's heavy into the self-deprecating humor.

He's already shown me pictures of his 2-year-old son and twin 8-year-old daughters, talked about the inspiration he's taken from Terry Fox, an amputee who, before dying, walked more than 3,000 miles to raise money for cancer, and Kobe.

"He'll probably try to steal the ball away from me," says Nash, and he's joking. He truly is.

"Kobe should have the ball a lot," he says. "And Dwight Howard is so good he doesn't need the ball to be good. If he sacrifices a little and is just a touch more like Bill Russell, and if Kobe is a touch more like a playmaker, and Pau Gasol plays off Dwight, this team can be awesome.

"But if everyone doesn't give in a little and accept change, it won't work. There are too many old dogs with old habits."

Does he realize Coach Mike D'Antoni's future is probably tied to Nash's effectiveness in orchestrating the Lakers' superstars?

"The way it's going now, nobody is going to end up walking out of here looking good," Nash says. "We're at that point where we've got to get things rolling or we're not going to make the playoffs."

He's already done the amazing, too much to document here, so who is to say he can't do it again?

Doesn't the good guy always win in the end?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimestjsimers

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