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

He's seen as the Lakers' savior, and he is clearly eager to return. Can the good guy who's getting on in years pull this team together?

PHILADELPHIA — His life has already been one of amazing accomplishment on and off the court.

So it's a thrill to meet him.

I don't get the opportunity often to talk to someone who is almost my age and still playing professional basketball, with plans following retirement to make motion pictures.

How inspiring to know it's never too late in life; Steve Nash is now considered the savior to pull the Lakers out of a nose dive.

Putting it that way, Nash says, "Hey, if I was in your shoes I know I wouldn't want to bet the ranch on this guy either. But in my shoes, I still feel incredibly optimistic and inspired."

Nice speech. But didn't your brother Martin play professional soccer? Your younger brother? How old was he when he called it quits?

"Thirty-five," says Nash, who will be 39 in February.

"I know at some point my game has got to go, and my game is getting into gaps. And if I can't get there anymore…" says Nash, his voice dropping off, which is certainly a lot better than the old guy nodding off.

"I've got a lot to prove," says Nash, which is kind of funny to hear knowing the old-timer has already been acknowledged twice as the game's MVP.

"I played basketball in October for the first time since April. I trained my butt off all summer, but I didn't play basketball because I wanted to be fresh mentally. Now I've got six weeks of inactivity to overcome and I'm going to be 39."

Did I also mention the Lakers' top shortcoming is defense, and their savior can't play a lick of it?

Twenty years ago, his college coach was calling him the worst defensive player he had ever seen, and that was when he still had life in his legs.

"I'm not a great defender," says Nash, by his very nature not the defensive sort. "Whatever I say, I'm never going to overcome the reputation."

We're sitting together in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel here. Nash has just completed a two-hour-plus workout. He's been running full speed for a few days now, he says, while quick to point out, "as full speed as I can go."

He says there's still a lot of discomfort in his injured leg. "But I would be extremely disappointed if I wasn't playing in the next week or two.

"Right now I just feel like luggage and they are carrying me around with them."

When he returns, the Lakers' savior will once again lie on his back when not playing.

He mentions some long word I can't spell, and explains it's a condition in which his back stiffens if he sits on the bench.

So he lies on his back, he says, more precautionary than anything, while dismissing the notion his body is shot.

I have to ask him what number he will be wearing when he returns because I missed his cameo appearance early on as a Laker.