Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Steve Nash: Gareth Bale is irreplaceable for Tottenham

NBA star Steve Nash, part owner of MLS' Vancouver Whitecaps, staunch Tottenham supporter and Inter training guest, hopes to see Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey remain with Spurs.

Steve Nash is used to having the offense flow through him as he facilitates successful conversions through the net.

Tuesday's experience, however

, was considerably different than the norm.

As part of promoting the Guinness International Champions Cup, Nash enjoyed a tryout with Inter Milan at the New York Red Bulls' training facility. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard, who is a part owner of MLS'  Vancouver Whitecaps and a fervent soccer supporter and player, played an attacking midfield and forward role for the Nerazzuri. Instead of seeking out Kobe Bryant for a corner jumper or threading a pass to Pau Gasol, he was instead linking up with the likes of Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso.

"I think the future is past," Nash, who did not find the back of the net, joked with Goal in a phone interview Tuesday of his chances of ever realistically cracking the squad. "It was a good run out while it lasted. I really appreciated the opportunity.

"It was amazing. I played with Cambiasso, Milito, it was crazy. They play at such a quick pace and with skilled athleticism.

Even though Nash has made it a habit of using his pace, skill and athleticism to try to torch the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, he is a staunch supporter of the Premier League's Spurs, Tottenham -- who ironically defeat Inter in the 2012-13 Europa League round of 16 -- and he has been intrigued by the offseason story lines, most notably the potential sale of Gareth Bale.

Real Madrid has reportedly issued a world-record bid for Bale of more than 100 million euros, money that Tottenham could use to spread around its roster at the cost of losing its -- and perhaps the Premier League's -- most valuable player.

"I'd rather he stuck around," Nash said. "That is a lot of money, but for me you can't replace a player like that. You want to keep guys like that. I think we can afford to sign players and keep him. It's going to be more difficult [to succeed] if you lose Gareth Bale.

"It looks as though he'll probably go. If they say it's now or never, it's going to be hard for him to turn it down."

Another one of Tottenham's standouts, USA star Clint Dempsey, has been the subject of transfer speculation as well even after a 12-goal first campaign with Spurs. His representatives have quieted the banter recently, and Nash is among those who would like to see the Texas native remain at White Hart Lane.

"I think he's a fantastic player," Nash said. "I don't know that he was fully embraced by Spurs fans at the beginning, but he won a ton of them over. He's such a clever player who never shies away from how big the moment is. He pops up and scores big, important goals. You've always got a chance to win a game when Clint is on the field.

"I think the manager [Andre Villas-Boas] really likes him. He's the kind of player you only sell if you're bringing in a world-class player at his position."

In addition to his Inter tryout and his Tottenham fandom Nash has had multiple connections to soccer over the years. On the ownership side, he helps oversee the Whitecaps. As a player, he hosts an annual Steve Nash Showdown in New York to benefit his foundation for underprivileged children, featuring a number of high-profile athletes and celebrities -- including players with Inter ties like Ivan Cordoba and Javier Zanetti. His brother, Martin, was a former Canadian international and professional player for a number of clubs, most notably the Whitecaps' USL side.

Even though the 39-year-old Nash devotes his time to basketball craft, he has an eye on his Whitecaps, whom he said he'd like to see have a greater Canadian presence.

That comes with time, especially with the growth of the club's development academy. The fruits of the club's youth development have already started to be enjoyed with the success of 20-year-old Russell Teibert. The Ontario native is tied for third in MLS with seven assists and has blossomed in his third professional season, but the first in which he has received extensive playing time.

"He's already cracking the national team," Nash said. "What I love about him is he does everything he's asked. He works hard, he lives the lifestyle of a professional athelte to work hard and recover. As a professional club, that's a culture you want to breed and the kind of committed athlete you want."

Nash also took the time to praise Whitecaps striker Camilo, who is tied for the MLS lead with 13 goals and will represent the club in the MLS All-Star Game.

"He's been incredibly consistent scoring goals every week," Nash said. "He's an exciting player for our fans. It's great for the fans and to get a guy that gets on fire like that."

A player like Nash can certainly recognize a true scorer's hot streak -- even if it happens for himself on the hardwood and not necessarily on the training ground with one of Italy's most storied sides.