So now the Canadians can’t even recruit “Captain Canada.”
If it helps at all on what otherwise will rank as one of the darkest, kicked-in-the-groin days in Toronto Raptors’ history, followers of that franchise should know that Steve Nash never seriously has considered playing for Cape Town, Soweto, Egoli or any of the other teams in the Premier Inland League in South Africa. Remember, the guy was born in Johannesburg, so if any basketball teams should feel snubbed by a native son, it’s the folks down there.
Not helping? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Nash grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, attended and played at St. Michaels University School there before heading to Santa Clara (Calif.) University. As a player, he helped Canada advance within one victory of the medal round of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In May, Nash agreed to become general manager of the men’s senior team for Canada Basketball.
The news conference for that move was held in Toronto, and it will remain the lone news conference for Nash in that city this offseason. The aging-but-still-incredibly-fit point guard won’t be playing for the Raptors in 2012-13, instead working out a sign-and-trade deal that delivers him to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won’t be doing a “Wayne Gretzky in reverse” by bringing his skills, fame and knack for public relations to the Great White North the way the Great One re-planted the NHL’s flag in the U.S.
Lots of fans and those close to the Raptors are awfully upset by this turnabout. Some even have accused Nash of “using” Toronto and the New York Knicks as leverage, as if landing a deal worth $25 million over three years rather than $36 million (Toronto’s offer) demonstrates any boardroom ruthlessness. Knicks fans feel snubbed, too, though at least their team isn’t the one (yet) locked into a $20 million offer sheet to Landry Fields, an ill-advised Raptors move to entice Nash.
Fact is, the Raptors’ feelings are hurt and they’re a little embarrassed. They have to scramble now after failing on a move that was more about buzz than basketball anyway, as noted by the Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat:
The Raptors and general manager Bryan Colangelo put everything they had into convincing Nash to come home to Canada– offering a ton of money, sending a contingent to New York City and showing him an inspirational video — but in the end, it was not to be.
Now, the Raptors remain as irrelevant as ever, scorned by a native son. This will not play well, so Colangelo must move quickly. At this point, he has an excellent head coach, some intriguing young pieces, led by 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas, the ultra-enigmatic Andrea Bargnani and cap space.
Not exactly the stuff contenders are made of, meaning Colangelo is going to be very busy if he intends to earn a contract extension and get the Raptors back into the East’s playoff mix.
It never should have come to this anyway. This is an understandable attempt at national pride and notoriety for an expansion team in its infancy, but not one for a team in its 18th season of existence. Toronto does have an excellent coach in Dwane Casey, but one who spent the lockout season building his team around defense and a methodical, halfcourt offense; no one ever seriously engaged questions about how that would mesh with Nash, anyway.
So now the Raptors can focus on Houston guard Kyle Lowry as a Plan B or C (Goran Dragic, another option at point, signed a four-year, $34 million deal with Phoenix.) And — if saving face and PR still are important to them — they can focus on acquiring Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph or Joel Anthony, active NBA players who actually were born in Canada. (Jamaal Magloire? Already there last season.)
Fans of Canadian basketball can take offence, as they spell it there, at Nash’s decision if they so choose. Just so they know he’ll be back in sunny California, spelling it offense for the Lakers.