Hall of Famer Steve Nash was nothing if not a leader over the course of an 18-year NBA career in which he won two MVP awards, but now he finds himself operating from a different perspective as a first-time head coach with the Nets. Nash pronounced Sunday’s first full-team workout of training camp "a great first day" with "great energy and spirit."
Given the shortened time frame of one full week of camp to prepare for the preseason opener against the Wizards next Sunday at Barclays Center, Nash was especially pleased his veterans all reported in top condition. That begins with Kevin Durant, who is playing for the first time in 18 months since undergoing Achilles tendon surgery, and Kyrie Irving, who is coming off shoulder surgery nine months ago.
"I feel excited and happy for Kevin, who has had the longest layoff and biggest challenge to overcome," Nash said. "He’s done everything that could have been asked. He shows that hunger and desire, how much he loves the sport and wants to compete. That’s been fantastic.
"Kyrie’s just been unbelievable. His ability is off the charts, and to see him sharp and executing today the way we all know he’s capable of, it’s still sometimes a shock to see how beautiful the game is when the ball is in his hands."
Nash said the Nets will "err on the side of caution" in how they prepare Durant for the season opener Dec. 22. "Obviously, our team’s success is going to hinge on his availability at some points, and we need to make sure he’s available when it counts," Nash said.
From the start, Nash has vowed to emphasize defense. "If you’re not a great defensive team, you’re not connected and you don’t have an incredible competitive spirit, a championship’s not in your cards," Nash said. "We’re going to build on those principles . . . if we want the chance to compete for the whole thing."