Lakers' Nash tests fitness at Milan practice
Despite putting out his best effort Tuesday during a stateside "tryout" for Inter Milan, Steve Nash admits he won't be joining the Italian club anytime soon.
Despite putting out his best effort Tuesday during a stateside "tryout" for Inter Milan, Steve Nash admits he won't be joining the Italian club any time soon.
The Los Angeles Lakers guard, a two-time NBA MVP who grew up playing soccer and is part-owner of Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps, got a chance to practice with Milan as they readied for Saturday's Guinness International Champions Cup tournament. The matches feature eight club teams from around the world, with a winner to be crowned in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Aug. 7.
"It was phenomenal for me to be out there on the field, it was like Christmas morning," Nash told Fox.
Nash joined the club's practice in New Jersey ahead of Inter Milan's opener in Indianapolis versus Chelsea. He worked out for about an hour and participated in the team scrimmage, according to reports.
He said the game is growing in the United States.
"If you think back 10 years ago that we'd have a 'SportsCenter' ticker with soccer scores, you never would have thought that would ever happen," Nash told ProBasketballTalk.com. "The MLS is doing phenomenally well. We have expansion in New York. Manchester City and the Yankees paying $100 million for a franchise? There are millions of soccer fans in this country and there are millions of kids playing the game."
Milan's players, including Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin, showed their gratitude Tuesday by circulating an Instagram picture of practice.
Nash said that had he not played basketball, he would have played soccer. He said his side is Tottenham Hotspur.
"My dad, my grandfather, they have been Tottenham fans their whole life. That's where my family is from. I definitely have a passion for the game," he told ProBasketballTalk.com. "But for me to say I might have a been a professional soccer player is a bit presumptuous."
The tournament begins Saturday when AC Milan visits Valencia. Juventus and Everton met Wednesday in another first-round game, with the other opening matchups being the Inter-Chelsea game and Real Madrid taking on the L.A. Galaxy on Thursday.
The European clubs are primarily using the event as preseason training, and the matches will allow for many more substitutions than normal, as is common with exhibition matches.
Nash played soccer and hockey as a child before starting his basketball career as an eighth-grader, primarily because most of his friends at the time were spending more time taking corner jumpers than corner kicks. His father, John, played professional soccer in South Africa and England.
As far as his "real job" goes, Nash said his fitness is "coming around" for the coming NBA season. His first season with the Lakers was an injury-filled one, where he was limited to 50 games because of a broken left leg and a strained right hamstring.
"[I feel] Good enough to embarrass myself on the soccer field," he told NBA.com. "I'm not quite 100 percent, I can't quite sprint, but I've been able to train around it, so I've made a lot of progress in other ways, and hopefully in the next three or four weeks I should be 100 percent."
Last season was a struggle for the Lakers, and the offseason hasn't exactly been tranquil, either. Dwight Howard left Los Angeles for Houston, Kobe Bryant has been working his way through rehabilitation for his Achilles, and the Lakers added new pieces like Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson.
"We're all just excited for another opportunity," Nash said. "We've got some terrific players coming off of difficult seasons. I know Pau Gasol after his injuries, Kobe's coming off a difficult injury, I was injured for the better part of the season. The three of us are eager to get back out there, and there's other guys, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, who missed a lot of time last year.
"We're excited to see what we can make of ourselves. We really are going to try for the second consecutive year to find chemistry and identity, but we're excited for it, so we'll see."
Nash said he isn't letting go of the bad memories from last season, using them instead as motivation for the coming year.
And when the new season starts, he said he wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bryant -- who tore his Achilles tendon in April -- not just ready but raring to go.
"I don't think he'd have it any other way," Nash said. "I know he's very focused and determined and he plans to come back as strong as ever, probably in record time."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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