Ha, ha. You thought I might be early again? Silly you.
Nothing on today until a noonish tour of the new digs at the Air Canada Centre so there’ll be no 7 a.m. postings today.
But this, my friends, was worth the wait.
Here’s the thing that strikes me most about Steve Nash right about now.
He’s ready to go on to real life.
|AP FILE PHOTO|
|Steve Nash is a leader of the pack both on and off the court.|
With his varied off-court pursuits, as he mentioned yesterday he’s positioning himself perfectly for the difficult transition from player to regular guy and that’s one of the more admirable parts of his personality.
And, maybe, he’s on the cutting edge of what the future looks like for pro athletes.
I don’t know if it’s the emergence of the social media, or the continued cross-pollination of sports and society, but it seems to me that more and more athletes are more and more engaged on different levels.
Nash, of course, is a leader of that pack, has been for years and will continue to be, I think.
But others are following. Look at Chris Bosh and his music, Dwight Howard and his desire to become more active in acting and the like, Baron Davis and his music, Shaq and his TV shows, LeBron and his desire to be something like the King of the World.
I think because of guys like Steve, other athletes are discovering passions away from the game, things that will allow them to contribute to society, and fill that drive they all have, when the careers are over.
I’m sure we’ll still hear a story or two about ex-players down on their luck and unable to find anything that truly motivates them once the lights are out but I think that number will diminish as time progresses.
And guys like Captain Canada are at the forefront.
He’s the other Hall of Famer I was looking for in the long and laborious process yesterday. (And they were honest mistakes, I wasn’t trying to artificially beef up the hit count, although that s was a nice byproduct).
Legendary kindly gentleman who worked with Isiah in the Raptors infancy, one of the nicest fellows you’d ever want to meet.
Had such an impact in such a short time that the team named an award after him, The Coach Mac Award, given annually to the gal or guy for overall contribution to life and the game around these parts.
I’m ready to do the Nash interview yesterday at a nice downtown hotel (I presume the TIFF toshes got all the sweet rooms up in Yorkville) and it strikes me that this must be what it’s like to be an entertainment writer.
You show up at the appointed time, a gaggle of handlers finds you and ushers you into a suite where more handlers are hanging around.
At the right moment, one of ‘em comes and gets you, walks you into an adjacent suite where the interview subject is settled in, chatting with another inquisitive type.
You’re told you’ve got 10 minutes and that some guy is going to come in and discreetly catch your eye when there’s a minute or so left.
Do the interview, see the minder to tell you time’s up, say goodbye and walk out to see a group of three or four other reporters waiting for their 10-minute audiences.
Kind of weird, actually; and not nearly as cool as the relaxed, story-filled, casual lunch a couple of hours later where half a dozen or so sports types sitting around with Steve simply catching up and chatting.
So, who do you like in Poland?
They're down to the rounds that really count; a second round-robin involving two six team pools with the top eight moving to the quarter-finals.
You’ve got Greece, France, Croatia, Germany, Russia, Macedonia in one group and Turkey, Slovenia, Spain, Serbia, Poland and Lithuania in the other.
One first blush, I think it’s easy to say Poland and Lithuania aren’t likely to come out of that second group; even though Spain has struggled, I fully expect them to be major players by the time this thing’s over.
In the first group? Well, I’d say Macedonia goes home and the other may come down to Russia or Germany. Neither has been on form and Germany only scraped through on points differential. So, I’ll suggest their run comes to a screeching halt after three more games.
The interesting thing will be to see how the quarter-finals shake out. The top six teams qualify for the worlds next year but if Turkey is one of them, the seventh place team goes because Turkey’s in as hosts.
If I had to guess right now, I’ll send Greece, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, and Serbia joining Turkey as the European reps next year.
Back to Nash for one minute.
One thing you have to admire about him is that he goes about his business because it’s his business and his passions.
He’s an understated role model more concerned with making sure his life is fulfilled rather than preaching to others.
“I would never want to be on a soapbox but if athletes can realize their potential to learn and educate themselves and to be productive outside their careers, if I can have an impact on that, that’s fine.”
That seems to be kind of subliminal role-modelling if you ask me.
We can be bit parochial around these parts so let’s go through a favourite Toronto connection with each of the Hall of Famers.
Where to start?
That game at the Dome when the Raptors beat him and the Bulls in their 72-win season?
The ridiculous “will Vince give up his all-star starting role for him” non-story?
Seeing him start his Washington return in a pre-season game here?
Me? I probably pick that Dome game.
(Oh yeah, do you think that wink we talked about – to someone none of you has ever heard of, actually, so stop guessing – had something to do with acknowledging a previous meeting? We do).
My mind’s a bit cluttered, but I do believe he is the only member of another NBA team honoured by the Raptors, who have him some kind of sculpture, if memory serves, when he was here for his last regular season game.
Oft-told story but there was a kid who had looked good at Jazz camp the year Stockton was drafted while Stockton was holding out looking for a better deal. The Jazz hierarchy starts praising the kid and, boom, all of sudden Stockton signs, the kid’s cut and the Hall of Fame career begins.
The kid? Jay Triano.
A toughie. You know about the press room dinners and the Araujo line and the fact I consider him one of the greatest coaches of all time. He’s a guy who always has time for a conversation after a pre-game or post-shootaround scrum breaks up.
But a direct connection to Toronto or the Raptors?
Well, I can’t be certain but since their playing careers overlapped by four or five years, I can be pretty sure he would have run into more than a few brick wall screens set by Wayne Embry. I can be pretty sure he tried to run right through them, too.
C. Vivian Stringer
I don’t know her at all but certainly know of her and her greatest contribution and connection to the game here is that she helped create the skills in one of Canada’s best-ever women players – Toronto’s Tammy Sutton-Brown when she was a collegiate at Rutgers.
Not bad, eh? A little touch of Toronto for all of ‘em.
Oh yeah, weekend mail bag’s a tad sickly, let’s get to work, folks.