Dec. 19, 2001 | Audio

Nash opening statement: I still think weíre hopefully ascending to the level of play we set out to play at this year. We feel with new additions weíre a deeper team with more potential than last year. With our team, our Achillesí heel is always our defense. Weíre continuing to improve technically, and our confidence is getting better defensively. Therefore we should become more successful as the year moves on.

Q: Do you ever see the day where more and more players can come from non-traditional basketball environments like Canada and succeed in the NBA, and what is it going to take to develop the sport at a higher level in Canada?

Nash: I think the game is growing globally. Youíre seeing players from all over the world coming from non-traditional backgrounds. I think itís going to continue because, although the traditions and the background may not be in the countries, television is there and media. The Internet definitely allows kids to see first-hand what it takes, and to be aware of what the highest level of basketball is in the NBA. It gives kids a goal to shoot for. In Canada, the tradition is growing. Itís continuing to be bolstered by the Raptors and the NBAís presence in Canada and also by the growth of the national team program and the recent success theyíve had. Awareness is growing as well as the knowledge and education, and as that continues, weíll see more and more successful Canadian basketball players.

Q: What advice would you give to Team Canada hockey players on participating in the Olympics?

Nash: Have fun. Thatís the most important thing, to realize that being an Olympian is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to represent your country on the highest stage, and to really make sure that they enjoy themselves and have a great time and be in the moment. From my experiences, if you really are there and realize the challenge but also the opportunity, you can make a lifetime of memories at the Olympic Games. You can also trust yourself to play at the highest level youíve ever played at because of the urgency and the importance playing in the Olympic Games for your country brings.

Q: What inspired you to sponsor the ex-Junior Grizzlies program in British Columbia?

Nash: I think that grass roots basketball is something thatís continually growing in Canada and in British Columbia. When the Grizzlies came to that region, they started a grass roots program that was really beneficial to the kids there. But once the Grizzlies left town, they pulled the plug on the program, which was really disappointing. I felt obligated to do whatever I could to try to save the program and help those kids have an opportunity to play grass roots basketball -- something that I never really played. Itís just something that was really important to me, that kids were given something and given an opportunity and then it was taken away from them, I didnít want that to happen. Kids are very important to me. Being Canadian, when the Grizzlies left town, I felt even more obligated to help the basketball community.

Q: Since youíve been in the league, do you feel this is the deepest the point guard position has been?

Nash: I think right now itís very deep, probably the deepest the position has been since Iíve been in the league. There are so many established guys, but thereís also a whole new wave of guys starting to establish themselves. Itís not something Iíve thought too much about, but now that you mention it, yeah, itís very deep. There are all sorts of guys that are go-to-guys and leaders on their team and are emerging or have emerged. Itís a very exciting time for the fans, from a point guard perspective.

Q: Who are some of the guards you go up against that present tough matchups?

Nash: Thereís so many. They all pose a different challenge. Itís such a deep position at this stage, thereís so many different guys and so many different challenges, thatís what makes it so much fun, every night you play someone good and every night that person poses a totally different game and a totally different psychological standpoint as well.

Q: Do you buy the idea that it would be almost impossible for a team to beat the Lakers in the playoffs?

Nash: I definitely think theyíre the favorites by a longshot, but I definitely donít think theyíre impossible to beat. I think that thereís so much more to the game than just two guys and their confidence and the dominance theyíve had over the past two seasons. Thereís so much more to the game and so much more talent and potential and creativity, that on any given night, I think that someone can beat them. I think in a playoff series, someone will have a chance to beat them. That said, theyíre definitely the favorites. The odds are against everyone else, but I think everyone is going to get closer and smarter and figure out a way that is viable to beat the Lakers.

Q: What is your early season assessment of the rule changes?

Nash: I think the rule changes have been fine. I havenít seen a problem with them at all, nothing has really slowed the game down or impeded the game aesthetically from that sense. I have no problem with them and so far theyíve been positive.

Q: What are your thoughts on Eduardo Najera?

Nash: I think our team has definitely needed some energy and some passion and somebody that plays with a lot of heart. Eduardo is somebody that gives us that. Heís been able to play three different positions, heís played both forward spots and center. Itís an important role that Eduardo has Ė coming in and playing with passion. Heís really helped our team at this point, and heíll continue to be an important player for our team. As a player, heís going to continue to develop.

Q: Does it seem like Kobe Bryant has reached a new level as a player?

Nash: Heís really maturing every year. I think he feels less and less urgency to put up big numbers and shots. I think heís much more comfortable and confident and has a lot less insecurities now. Heís much more mature. Heís able to let the game come to him and do whatís best for the team as a group. He doesnít find the need to try to take over games when itís unnecessary. I think his growth has been profound and itís a big reason why theyíve been successful, because heís one of their leaders, one of their best players and heís able to take a backseat to the team.