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Steve Nash never thought he'd make this move

Two-time MVP is introduced as a Laker. Mitch Kupchak doesn't sound optimistic about a deal for Dwight Howard.

July 11, 2012|By Ben Bolch

Steve Nash walked into the Lakers' practice facility Wednesday wearing a black pinstriped suit with a red pocket square, his white dress shirt bearing an open collar.

It might be the last time this summer a superstar breaks out the haute couture to be introduced as a Laker.

A day after the Lakers reentered trade discussions involving Orlando's Dwight Howard, General Manager Mitch Kupchak did not exactly express optimism that his team would add another celebrated player before next season.

VIDEO: Mitch Kupchak on Lakers' roster

"If you could get one every five or seven years, you've done pretty good," Kupchak said. "We think we've got one this year. … Can we do that twice? I'm not quite sure that's possible."

Not that the Lakers aren't trying.

Kupchak said he continued his attempts to upgrade the roster, though a more imminent move could involve Antawn Jamison. The Lakers were trying to lure the veteran free-agent forward, who would immediately help boost scoring among their punchless reserves.

After allocating about $27 million over the next three years to Nash in a trade with Phoenix that was finalized Wednesday, the Lakers are increasingly reluctant to use the "mini" mid-level exception, their only free-agent tool. It tops out at $3.1 million next season, but the Lakers are hoping to sign free agents to fill out their bench by using only the veteran's-minimum contract, which tops out at $1.35 million next season.

Jamison, 36, averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds last season with Cleveland, though he shot a career-low 40.3%. He has received a handful of more lucrative offers, but none of those teams have the playoff potential of the Lakers.

The Lakers are among a handful of teams still pursuing Howard after Orlando reportedly ended trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets about the All-Star center. The Nets signed center Brook Lopez to a maximum four-year, $60-million contract, essentially ending their hopes of acquiring Howard because Lopez can't be traded until Jan. 15.

The Howard saga shows no sign of ending, with Orlando General Manager Rob Hennigan even telling reporters he had not ruled out letting the long-disgruntled player open the season with the Magic.

Meanwhile, the Lakers can take comfort in having the only backcourt in NBA history featuring two most valuable players in Nash and Kobe Bryant.

Kupchak introduced Nash to the media as "a thorn in the Lakers' side for most of this decade" and said he was "happy to see him wearing purple and gold."

"We think by adding Steve Nash," Kupchak said of the two-time MVP, "we've given ourselves a better chance to be in the hunt than we were before we added him."

After holding up a Lakers jersey and smiling for cameras, Nash, 38, acknowledged it was "surreal" to join his longtime Pacific Division rival.

"This is a day I never foresaw," said Nash, whose Suns defeated the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and '07 but lost to them in the 2010 Western Conference finals.

Nash said he was swayed by the opportunity to play for a team that could help the veteran point guard win his first NBA title while staying close to his three children in Phoenix. A phone conversation with Bryant on July 2 in which the star shooting guard enthusiastically endorsed the move made Nash feel even better about his decision.

Nash hopes to ease the burden that Bryant felt in recent seasons while having to be both a scorer and a playmaker.

"I think he's had to take on so much that it would be nice for him to maybe get a few more easy baskets to not have to expend so much energy," Nash said, "and hopefully I can spread the floor a little bit with my shooting ability so that Andrew [Bynum] and Pau [Gasol] have a little more room to roam."

The only player in NBA history to shoot at least 50% from the field, 40% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line in four seasons, Nash is also adept at running pick-and-roll plays that could enhance the Lakers' offense.

"It's the most difficult play to stop in basketball," Nash said, "so when they choose to guard it one way, we can make them pay somewhere else."

Nash answered a handful of questions in Spanish and apologized for not speaking the language better. When Nash responded to a question about Mike Brown in Spanish, the Lakers coach playfully interjected from his seat toward the back of the media contingent.

"What's he saying about me now?" Brown asked, laughing.

Retorted Nash: "I'll get you some Spanish DVDs and CDs. I might need them too."

A huge soccer fan, Nash said he opted to wear No. 10 with the Lakers because it represented the number worn by playmakers in the sport that has become a second passion. The No. 13 he wore with the Suns is unavailable after being retired by the Lakers as a tribute to Wilt Chamberlain.

Nash also endorsed the possibility of the Lakers adding his former longtime teammate Grant Hill if he fit into their plans, though Nash might have to settle for Jordan Hill.

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