|Suns guard and Whitecaps co-owner Steve Nash practices with the MLS club, in Burnaby, B.C., Sep. 6, 2011. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)
BURNABY, B.C. - If the Vancouver Whitecaps were more cautious than usual on the practice pitch Tuesday at Swangard Stadium, they had a good reason.
The club's part owner, NBA superstar Steve Nash -- who made $10.3 million last season, double the pay of the entire Whitecaps roster this year -- was training with the squad.
While the Phoenix Suns point guard took part in a scrimmage-like drill, his soccer mates held off on the hard tackles and challenges.
"They took it easy on me," said Nash, who was wearing the No. 13 jersey. "It was a great opportunity for me not just to kick around with the guys but to get to know them a bit. It's great to know the temperature of the club and how the guy's spirits are."
While the Whitecaps are enduring a difficult season as an MLS expansion team, the 37-year-old Nash appreciates the upbeat attitude of the players.
"That's all you can ask for. You want guys to come out and fight every day and train with some passion and inspiration and they're doing that," Nash said of the 4-13-9 team. "We want to win right now but you have to look at building day by day."
The Victoria, B.C., native sees a brighter future for the franchise, pointing out the positives from the Whitecaps' inaugural season: A good residency program, plans to move to a new stadium, and having the third-highest attendance in the league behind the Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy.
Nash also talked about his own career, as the NBA lockout puts the pending season in jeopardy.
"It hasn't been positive thus far, but hopefully in time we can come to some middle ground and move forward," said Nash, adding the 2011-12 season probably won't begin on time.
"Hopefully as we get into the time of year when everyone's missing basketball, then we can all start to concede on some points ... and that would be the best of both worlds."
For now, he said he can't worry about things that are out of his control.
"I'm just going to stay in shape," he said. "I try to work hard every day to be prepared for when it does come to a resolution."
It's that mind-set Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit hopes will rub off on the players, even if Nash participated in only one short practice.
"For somebody to have a career like he has in the fashion that he has it, that comes with immediate respect," DeMerit said. "To have him around is a very good positive for this place."