Steve Nash reflects on career: “My story is something that kids can learn from”

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Steve Nash stood in front of media members Tuesday, talked about his decision to retire, and looked back on a career that has him destined for the Hall of Fame.

One that from the start was maybe the most improbable of the MVP, Hall-of-Fame, franchise cornerstone careers in all of the NBA. Nash sees that as an inspiration, as reported by David Leon Moore of the USA Today.

“That’s what makes my story interesting,” Nash said. “I had one scholarship offer. I was never a sure thing. I had to overcome a lot to get to the level I got to. There were a lot of ingredients, but the key ingredient was hard work. My story is something that kids can learn from and relate to. It feels good to be able leave that behind as my story.”

Nash spoke of his story in the way a guy looking to get into film should speak of narrative, with reverence. Nash’s story is that of a guy born in South Africa, raised in Canada, and who on the surface lacks the physical tools it would take to be an NBA superstar. He’s not tall or long, nor can he leap out of the building.

But Nash worked as long and hard on his game and his body as anyone in the league (something seemingly lost on a few Lakers fans in recent years). He genuinely loved the game. With Don Nelson and the Mavericks, we saw one of the best offenses ever when Nash was paired with Dirk Nowitzki.

Then with Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix, they revolutionized the game. Their tempo, their free-flowing offense heavy on pick-and-rolls with shooters spacing the floor has been copied by every smart coach, smart team in the NBA for the last decade. The last three titles — two in Miami, one in San Antonio — went to coaches who admitted borrowing from those Suns teams.

Nash said the words that have flowed in from peers since his announcement have meant a lot.

Of course, Nash has had to come to terms with never having won a ring.

“For sure, there’s a lot of disappointment not to win a championship,” Nash said. “At the same time, I definitely left it all out there. There have been a number of players with tremendous careers who haven’t won titles. They probably feel similar. They wish they could have taken a title, but that final step wasn’t to be. I played on some great teams and had a lot of success. I just wasn’t able to get over the hump a few times.”

Nash battled back issues through the second half of his career, and nobody worked harder than him to stay on the court. That included his last three years in Los Angeles, but the nerve issue from a broken leg never could get right and kept him off the court for the Lakers for most of that time.

Some Lakers fans ripped him for that, although not the thinking ones. And not the ones he spoke to.

“There’s a lot of negativity on line, but I’ve never had anybody in L.A. say a negative thing to me in person,” he said. “A Lot of people here have shown a lot of class and been incredibly gracious, and that starts with the Lakers organization. I was treated incredibly in my time here, and I will be forever grateful for that. Sometimes the Internet becomes our reality until you realize that that’s not at all how it is in flesh and blood.”

Nash was nothing but classy as a Laker, as he was throughout his career. If there were a Hall of Fame for the good guys in sport, he’d be a shoe-in.

As it is, he’s a shoe-in for the other Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

And he will go down as one of the great, unlikely superstars in NBA history.

Watch Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic dunk all over Bol Bol

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Bol Bol had some impressive blocked shots during exhibition games at the NBA’s restart, but he hadn’t gotten one in his 16 limited minutes since the seeding games started. He wanted one.

So Bol tried to get in front of Jusuf Nurkic of Denver on Thursday and… that did not go well.

Bol did later get a blocked shot on Hassan Whiteside.

Nurkic, however, ended the night with 22 points, seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers got a 125-115 win that has Portland comfortably as the ninth seed, just half-a-game back of eight-seed Memphis. Portland is setting itself up with a better-than-average chance make the playoffs

Kawhi Leonard’s 29 leads Clippers past Mavericks in potential first-round preview

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday night in a possible playoff preview.

Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Clippers entered the night a just half game ahead of Denver, but they shot 54% against the Mavericks to improve to 2-2 in the restart.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points and Luka Doncic added 29 for Dallas, which fell to 1-3 in the restart.

Dallas likely will finish as the No. 7 seed, making a first-round matchup with the Clippers a strong possibility.

“That’s obviously going to be a tough matchup,” Porzingis said. “They’re one of the favorites to win it all. They have multiple guys that have been there already. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and getting experience in that.”

Doncic was coming off a monster game — 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. He made 10 of 21 shots against the Clippers, including 6 of 13 3-pointers.

“Luka’s just a handful,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It takes a whole team to guard him. I thought our guys did a pretty good job overall. We lost him a couple times, which you can never do. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The Clippers led Dallas by 12 in the third quarter before the Mavericks rallied and tied the game at 101 midway through the fourth. Los Angeles responded with a 9-0 run to regain control. The Clippers shot 62% in the fourth quarter to pull away.

“I just liked how we played overall,” Rivers said. “We played like a team tonight, on both ends.”

Though the Mavericks fell to 1-3 in the restart, Doncic remained confident.

“We’re a great team,” he said. “We’ve always got chances, no matter what. I think some people count us out, but we’re not out. We’ll give our max.”

Devin Booker says after latest Suns’ win ‘Kobe’s with me every day’

Devin Booker Kobe
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Devin Booker grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan. When Booker made the league in 2016 he got to play against his idol and threw up 28 points on the night. Kobe was impressed. The two talked after the game and Kobe gave him an autographed pair of shoes with an inspirational message:

“Be Legendary.”

Booker took that to heart. He got the phrase as a tattoo. He’s been writing “Be Legendary” on his Nike’s before every game in the bubble. And after he scored 20 against the Pacers Thursday, helping the Suns remain undefeated for the restart, he said Kobe is still inspiring him every day.

“Kobe’s with me every day. You guys see what I put on my shoes with the ‘Be Legendary.’ It’s a reminder.”

Whatever he’s doing, it is working. Booker hit a Kobe-like turnaround game-winner to beat the Clippers. He’s averaging 28 points and 6.5 assists a game for the restart, and shooting 40% from three. Defenses are keying on him, but with a healthy Deandre Ayton and other players stepping up — Cameron Johnson has been a surprise standout in Orlando — the Suns look sharp and keep on winning.

Kobe would be proud.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 33 on Heat, Bucks secure No. 1 seed

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a huge early deficit to get a 130-116 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half where the team piled up 73 points despite playing without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win his second MVP award, sat out about five minutes of the fourth quarter after collecting his fifth foul with 11 minutes to go. Milwaukee trailed by 1 with about five minutes remaining before using a 20-0 run, with three dunks from Antetokounmpo, to make it 130-111 with less than a minute to go and cruise to the victory.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton played 30 and 34 minutes respectively after the stars both sat out the entire second half of their last game on Tuesday.

Duncan Robinson had 21 points for the Heat, who lost to Milwaukee for the first time this season after winning the first two meetings.

The Heat led by 6 with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo picked up his fifth foul on a charge and headed to the bench. Andre Iguodala made a 3 for Miami before the Bucks scored the next 13 points, capped by a 3 from Bledsoe, to take a 107-103 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

Robinson made a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought of almost four minutes for Miami with about 6 ½ minutes to go and Antetokounmpo re-entered the game soon after that.

The Heat led by 12 with about 10 minutes left in third quarter before Milwaukee used a 16-3 run to take an 82-81 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Wesley Matthews each had five points each in that span to help close the gap.

The Bucks cut the lead to 3 with a dunk by Antetokounmpo late in the third. But the Heat wrapped up the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to take a 98-92 lead into the fourth.