Jan. 5, 2001
TORONTO, Ontario -- Santa Clara University grad Steve Nash figured life would return to normal after the high of the Sydney Olympics.
The Victoria, British Columbia native, the hero of Canada's surprising run Down Under in September, would be just another guy fighting for playing time with the Dallas Mavericks this season.
He was wrong.
The point guard with the crazy hair and big heart is one of major reasons the Dallas Mavericks (21-13 following Friday night's 115-105 win over the Toronto Raptors) are on their way to their first winning record since 1989-90.
Consider this from columnist Jody Valade in Friday's Dallas Morning News: "Nash is playing the best basketball of his career and holding the team together with his instruction on and off the court."
Along with teammates Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley, the Mavericks are contending in the tough Western Conference.
Nash, who turns 27 next month, was averaging 16.6 points and a team-high 7.3 assists going into (Jan. 5) game in which he scored a career-high 27 points and added eight assists and five rebounds.
Riding the wave from Sydney, Nash is enjoying his finest NBA season.
Unfortunately for Nash, it feels like June right now, not January, because of the Olympics.
"It's been difficult. We trained for four months," Nash said Friday, referring to Canada's Olympic camp. "The Dream Team had the luxury of showing up and playing after a few weeks of training. We couldn't do that.
"I'm really at the end of the season, so to speak, right now. It's been hard. I try to do the best I can to prepare myself and be healthy."
He's also had to deal with some off-court distractions. Tabloid reports in Britain had Nash dating Geri Halliwell, the pop star formerly known as Ginger Spice.
Halliwell was spotted having dinner with the Canadian, dubbed the Slam Dunk Hunk by the Brits, in a Dallas restaurant. The former Spice Girl was also seen at a game sporting a Nash jersey.
Alas, there would be no romance. Nash is dating a student from Victoria.
Dealing with this kind of stuff is new to Nash, who only a year ago was booed by Mavericks fans and barely played. Now he's a celebrity.
But he can do without the tabloids.
"I laugh at it," Nash said about the Spice Girl reports. "To me it's just funny. It's part of life, I guess."
About the only thing that could top off this season for Nash would be an improbable invitation to the NBA all-star game. While Nash wasn't even put on the official ballot for fan voting, Canada Basketball has started a push on its Web site (www.basketball.ca) to get Canadians to vote for Nash on the NBA's Web site (www.nba.com). There, fans can vote for any player, even those not on the original ballot.
"If fans can go on the NBA Web site and vote for him as an all-star, it would be great to see him get that recognition not only because he's Canadian but also because he's a very good NBA player," Art Rutledge, president of the governing body of Canadian basketball, said Friday after meeting with Nash at the Air Canada Centre.
The voting end(ed) Jan. 14.
"Unfortunately, we only thought about this a couple of weeks ago," Rutledge added.
Nash appreciates the gesture.
"That's flattering," he said. "There's a lot of great players in this league and to be considered a candidate is an honour. To be an all-star in this league would be something I would never forget.
"If it became a reality it would really be a thrill for me but at the same time I realize there are a lot of great players."
While his numbers are impressive, Nash has some tough sledding to get into the all-star game for the Western Conference. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jason Kidd of the Phoenix Suns, Gary Payton of the Seattle SuperSonics, Jason Williams of the Sacramento Kings, Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets and veteran John Stockton of the Utah Jazz are among the leading vote-getters at the guard position.
Nash says he didn't feel slighted that he didn't even make the ballot.
"Not really. I've faced a lot of naysayers in my career so a few more won't hurt, that's for sure."