INTERVIEW-NBA-Nash upbeat despite anticlimactic end to stellar career

By Mark Lamport-Stokes EL SEGUNDO, California, March 24 (Reuters) - Steve Nash could have felt cheated after assorted injuries over the past two years culminated in his retirement from the NBA, but he prefers to focus on all the positives during a stellar career. A two-time NBA most valuable player who is one of the best point guards ever to grace the game, the 41-year-old Canadian held a news conference at the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday to mark his formal farewell. "Obviously my career didn't end in the fashion that I wanted it to," Nash, smartly dressed in a navy blue suit, told Reuters after being warmly applauded by reporters and Lakers officials after the conference ended. "At the same time, I've had an incredibly long career, 18 seasons. I've had back issues predominantly throughout my career and so when you have that in perspective, I could have very easily been finished eight, nine or 10 years into my career. "I feel very fortunate that I have played as long as I have done, regardless of the way it's ended." Nash, whose remarkable career also included two spells with the Phoenix Suns and one with the Dallas Mavericks, officially announced his retirement on Saturday in a letter published on The Players' Tribune website. "It was hard," Nash said of his decision to quit the game. "In the end, it declared itself. I realised that I just couldn't do it any more. I couldn't sustain the rigours of the game with my back and so it (the decision) presented itself for me. "It probably could have been something that I could have accepted earlier but I had to go through and open every door to try to find a way through and ultimately it didn't happen. But when it did, I felt sure and I've never second-guessed it." THE FINAL REALISATION Nash, who signed a three-year, $28 million deal with the Lakers in 2012 before breaking a leg in only his second game with the storied franchise, finally realised his career was likely over during the 2014-15 preseason. "I played okay in my first preseason game but when I woke up that next morning and was a mess, that was when I started to think long and hard about what I was really capable of," said Nash, who played only 65 games for the Lakers due to injuries. "About a week later, I played again and wasn't nearly ready. I felt I had to try and see if this was something I could break through after a few minutes on the court, and I clearly wasn't. I knew then I'd be lucky to play 10 (NBA) games this season." An eight-time All-Star, Nash is third on the NBA's all-time assists list with 10,335, and has no regrets over what might have been had he been fitter during his time with the Lakers. "I don't look back," he smiled. "I look forward and even the entire way through my time here with the Lakers, I always looked forward for a way to get back on the court, a way to get back to my best. "So now that it's over, I realise that it's suitably over, I look forward again." Asked if he had any special memories from a playing career that included MVP honors in 2005 and 2006 during his time with the Suns, Nash replied: "We definitely had a great run in Phoenix and I played on some great teams in Dallas. "But, more than anything, I remember my teammates. That's always what I think of first when I look back on my career -- all those great people and players that I've played with. "Those guys, those names, they still make me feel a certain way when I hear them today," said Nash, a 'pick-and-roll' wizard who was the NBA's most accurate free-throw shooter ever, making 90.4 percent of his attempts. (Editing by Frank Pingue)