NBA star Steve Nash is as keenly interested in the playoff run of the Vancouver Canucks as any British Columbian, but with a personal connection thrown in.
Nash’s brother-in-law Manny Malhotra is a Canucks forward currently recovering from a serious eye injury.
Nash, a Victoria native and all-star point guard with the Phoenix Suns, was at Rogers Arena for Game 2 of Vancouver’s conference final against San Jose.
The 37-year-old wants to be in the building again for a Stanley Cup final involving the Vancouver Canucks.
“I would definitely hope to make some games,” Nash said Tuesday during a conference call. “It would be a big disappointment if they got all the way to the final and I couldn’t make any. I’ll definitely try to get there.
“The experience of Game 2 was phenomenal. The atmosphere and electricity not only in the arena, but in the city was beautiful. (I’m) extremely excited for the Canucks as is everyone in British Columbia.”
The Canucks were home for Game 5 on Tuesday night. If necessary, Game 6 would be played in San Jose on Thursday night.
Malhotra is the husband of Nash’s sister Joann. Malhotra required two surgical procedures after he was struck in the left eye by a deflected puck during a game against Colorado on March 16.
The Canucks declared Malhotra’s season over, but the 30-year-old forward has been skating with the team during their playoff run and wears a full shield to protect his eye.
“It’s been extremes, highs and lows,” Nash said. “It was a low moment when he was injured and at times when you feared he could lose his eye.
“He’s hung in there through all the ups and downs. He’s been skating recently so hopefully he’ll be ready for training camp. He’s an amazing guy and obviously you want the best for anybody in that situation, but in particular a guy who is as classy and as good a person as Manny.”
Nash battled his own injuries during the NBA season, albeit less severe than his brother-in-law’s. Nash played in pain with a sore pelvis after the all-star break, but still led the NBA in assists for the fifth time in his career.
The Suns fell short of the post-season after reaching the Western Conference final last year.
Nash has twice earned the NBA’s award for most valuable player but has yet to win a championship ring. He has a year remaining on his contract with Phoenix.
Suns president for basketball operations Lon Babby called Nash “the sun and the moon and the stars of this franchise” at a season-ending news conference. Nash maintains he wants to remain in Phoenix.
“My No. 1 priority would be to stay with the Suns and to try to get us back in the playoffs and contend again like we did last year,” he said. “Who knows what the future (holds) and obviously all options come into play in the future, but all I think about now is training for next season and taking our team back to the playoffs and hopefully building on that success in Phoenix.”
Nash and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan were on the conference call Tuesday to discuss their new business venture in Liquid Nutrition Group Inc., a smoothie, food, vitamin and supplement store concept.
Nash is involved in several off-court business ventures. He also has an ownership stake in the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team.
The Suns tried off-season acquisitions last year and trades during this past season to compensate for the loss of Amare Stoudemire, who signed with the New York Knicks.
The Suns struggled to find the same chemistry that propelled them into the 2010 conference final against the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat Phoenix in six games en route to an NBA title.
“We had a lot of guys coming and going,” Nash explained. “We went to training camp with six guys from the Western Conference finals team. By the end of the trade deadline, I think we had four guys left from the prior season.
“While our roster isn’t finalized or perfect, we probably need to make more changes. A big part of our success would be to build on whatever chemistry and cohesion that we built this year.
“It’s going to take us time to figure out who we are and incorporate probably some more new players. I feel this year was a learning experience for us and it will afford us a lot going into next season.”