Nash takes his new life in stride
To help celebrate his 60th birthday, John Nash is contemplating a visit to the Philadelphia Phillies' Phantasy Camp in Florida this January, where he could take cuts against Mitch Williams and Larry Andersen, accept pointers from Bobby Wine and John Kruk, and rub shoulders with Dallas Green.
Probable position: third base.
'I played shortstop when I was younger, but that was about 75 pounds ago,' Nash says. 'I have a lot of friends in the Phillies' organization. I would love to go down there and spend some time in Clearwater with them.'
Nash will have more free time this winter than he had the last three years, when he served as general manager of the Trail Blazers.
After being let go by Portland in May, Nash moved back to Philadelphia. Three of his four children live in the area, and his beloved racehorses are close by. Nash reacquainted himself with his golf game and set up a deal to work as a commentator on 40 Sixer games for Comcast SportsNet.
'It's kind of nice to be able to step back,' he says. 'I've been able to spend some quality time with my father, who is 90. We took a family vacation to the Jersey shore in August. I'm in no hurry to go back (in an NBA front office) full blast.'
Nash probably won't get another chance. His track record in three previous stints as a GM (New Jersey, Washington and Philadelphia) was not good, and he didn't knock 'em dead in Portland.
That doesn't make Nash a bad NBA executive. He made some good calls and some bad ones with the Blazers.
He was a fall guy, really, a sacrificial lamb to pay the sins of the collective group. Paul Allen is the real GM, or at least the guy with stamp-of-approval or veto power on all major decisions.
There were deals Nash would have liked to have done but couldn't, such as one that would have brought Vince Carter to Portland. But you won't hear Nash say a bad word about anybody in the organization, including President Steve Patterson and Kevin Pritchard, the director of player personnel who added assistant GM to his title after Nash was sent packing.
'I have no hard feelings,' Nash says. 'I enjoyed very much working with Steve and Kevin and a lot of folks at the practice facility and the Rose Garden. I feel like I have a lot of friends in Portland. I was appreciative of my opportunity there.
'Once I knew what direction we were going, my job was to cut payroll,' he says. 'I knew it would be very difficult to win games and cut payroll. The team was for sale, and nobody wanted to make any commitment to the future. I did what I was asked to do, and we got some quality players, and the financial position of the franchise is in much better shape today than when I started there.'
When Nash arrived in 2003, Blazer payroll was at an NBA-record $105 million. Last year, it was at $60 million (by avoiding the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, Allen saved $90 million). Payroll for this year's team is $72 million.
Nash says there were other duties to be performed with the Blazers that he didn't enjoy.
'Soon after arriving in Portland, it became painfully clear some of the players under contract were grossly overpaid and underperforming,' he says. 'From afar, I thought the team was better than it was. Everybody in the league knew guys like Rasheed (Wallace) and Bonzi (Wells) had to go, so you weren't dealing from a position of strength.
'I won't miss the contract negotiations or the conversations with agents complaining, not only about their players not playing but also about not playing the position they wanted,' he says. 'It was self-evident.'
Nash has had occasional conversations with Pritchard and a few others in the organization.
'Nothing extensive,' Nash says. 'I'm watching from afar. It sounds like their young guys are playing well. Brandon Roy looks like he's going to be the real deal, and Martell (Webster) is a good one. It's a shame they lost LaMarcus (Aldridge) for a while, but they have some depth along the front line. If the guards can come through, they can be decent.'
Decent is a good word to describe Nash. He was a loyal company man who represented the Portland organization well. He wasn't the symptom of what ails the franchise but, alas, couldn't provide the cure, either.