Steve Nash: Injuries allowed him to prepare for retirement

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(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

TORONTO (AP) -- Suffering through three injury-plagued seasons in Los Angeles is not exactly how Steve Nash wanted to end his professional basketball career.

But his tough time with the Lakers actually allowed him to make a seamless transition into life after the NBA.

The 41-year-old from Victoria, British Columbia, retired last month to cap an illustrious 19-year career that included eight All-Star appearances, seven nominations to the All-NBA team and consecutive MVP awards. Nash left the league as the leading career free-throw shooter and is third in assists.

An assortment of injuries limited Nash to just 65 games over his final three NBA seasons with the Lakers. He suffered a broken leg in just his second game. He missed 24 games, then suited up just 15 times in the 2013-14 campaign.

Back and nerve issues prevented Nash from playing at all this season but the 6-foot, 195-pound point guard said the extended downtime was a blessing in disguise.

"I think that really helped me in kind of an odd way," said Nash, in Toronto Wednesday for a youth basketball program. "It was painful and difficult for me but at the same time, it did give me a little perspective and closure when I came to the end of 18 months and realized I can't do this.

"I kind of feel fortunate for that because I could've been in a pretty devastating place if I had abruptly found the end was there."

But while Nash is no longer playing basketball, he's certainly not out of the game. He remains the general manager of Canada's national men's team and hopes to get involved in the marketing and promotion of the program.

"That's an important component of our program because we don't have a lot of resources," Nash said. "We live in the best country in the world and we give our money to a lot of great places, but it leaves us with the responsibility of trying to raise it ourselves with our program for the most part."

The Canadian program would certainly thrive if rising NBA star Andrew Wiggins donned the country's colors.

The Minnesota Timberwolves rookie told reporters following Wednesday's shootaround that he'll play for Canada in August. The FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament is Aug. 25 to Sept. 6 in Monterrey, Mexico.

Nash was unaware of Wiggins' statement, but said earlier Wednesday that there was no question Wiggins wants to play for Canada.

"I don't want to make any proclamations now but Andrew wants to play and I think is excited to play," Nash said. "As with all of our NBA players, they have a career to be careful of, a club that for the most part owns their rights and needs to protect its investment.

"But all of our guys want to play and I would expect most of them, if not all of them, to be there ... I think we'll see him (Wiggins) in red and white this summer."

These are also heady times for Canada's lone NBA entry, the Toronto Raptors. The franchise has clinched the Atlantic Division crown for the second straight year and will have home-court advantage for at least the opening round of this year's playoffs.

"I think it's an amazing time right now for Raptors fans and for basketball across the country," Nash said. "The Raptors are really the national team now in many respects ... many of my friends that I grew up with in B.C., they know everything about the Raptors."

And Nash believes Toronto is capable of making noise in the postseason.

"They have a lot of ingredients, a lot of talented players, a toughness," he said. "They play together and the right way so I think it's a great team to watch and a great team for our young kids to look at."

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