Steve Nash has a busy week, but he still plans to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps make history on Thursday night.
The NBA icon is scheduled to play three games in four nights as he begins a new era of his legendary career with the Los Angeles Lakers. But the 38-year-old Victoria native still intends to watch the Whitecaps as they become the first Canadian team to play an MLS playoff game, against the host L.A. Galaxy.
"I hope to be at the game — for sure," said Nash, a Whitecaps minority owner, after a Lakers practice Monday.
' … anything's possible, and our guys welcome the excitement of the underdog role.' —Minority Whitecaps owner/NBA star Steve Nash
The Whitecaps finished fifth in the Western Conference, grabbing the final playoff berth after FC Dallas lost its final game of the regular season in Seattle. Vancouver made the playoffs after finishing last overall in its 2011 expansion season.
"It's phenomenal for the Whitecaps to make the playoffs in their second year in MLS," said Nash said. "They've had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of change, a lot of difficult moments."
Nash is also expected to have some difficult — and memorable — moments this week, regardless of what the Whitecaps do. The Lakers open their 2012-13 season at home Tuesday against one of his former clubs, the Dallas Mavericks.
The next night, they will play a road game in Portland against the Trail Blazers. Nash will then fly back to L.A. and take in the Whitecaps-Galaxy contest on his only night off in the four-day stretch.
He has sat in the crowd, rather than in a luxury box, at home games at B.C. Place Stadium this season, but does not know where his seat will be in the Home Depot Center. The Whitecaps, who arrive in Los Angeles on Tuesday, have portrayed themselves — quite justifyingly — as heavy underdogs against the defending MLS champions led by icon David Beckham and company.
The star-studded Galaxy finished a modest fourth in the regular season, and Beckham and Landon Donovan are nursing injuries that have nagged them in recent weeks. But Nash was also quite willing to play the u-card.
"L.A. is a terrific team," Nash said. "If you look at L.A.'s experience and successes, they're the heavy favourites. But anything's possible, and our guys welcome the excitement of the underdog role."
After watching the Whitecaps, Nash will get back to basketball on Friday as the Lakers take on their local rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, at the Staples Center.
But he won't be able to watch the Whitecaps — in person or on TV — if they advance to the second round of the MLS post-season. If successful against the Galaxy, the Caps will host the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
The same night, Nash's Lakers will play a home game against the Detroit Pistons, starting at the same time the Whitecaps would entertain the Earthquakes.