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Steve Nash gets warm welcome in his return to Toronto

Steve Nash chose Los Angeles over Toronto this past summer. (Canadian Press)TORONTO – He’s a symbol of basketball in Canada, a pioneer for the sport in this country and one of the game’s great point guards, but when Steve Nash chose the bright lights of Los Angeles over Toronto as his new basketball home this past summer he left many Raptors fans disappointed.

Some voiced their displeasure of Nash’s decision on Twitter while others found the positive side, as the move to L.A. would give the Canadian star a chance to win an NBA title in the final years of his career.

"It was a very interesting free agent year, there was a real chance I could come here, so, to not be here does kind of change the perspective a little bit, the relationship, that does make it a little different,” Nash told reporters Sunday. “It was hard for me to say no to a franchise that I’m rooting for that has so many old friends. It was difficult to me to say no to the Raptors, not just for the fans, but all those people upstairs that I’ve known for years.

“I’m sure there will be some disgruntled natives, but that’s OK. I think it’s great when people are passionate about their team and they have every right to be disappointed. [But] I think I still have a lot of supporters here. Some people are upset, I get it, that’s cool.”

Nash returned to Toronto Sunday for the first time since signing with the Lakers in the off-season and though there was the thought that some would boo the Canadian, he received a rousing ovation from the crowd at the Air Canada Centre – though a Laker-friendly one – when he was announced as a part of the L.A. starting lineup.

But the Lakers came out sluggish and the Raptors jumped out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter and didn’t look back en route to a 108-103 win. While the Lakers cut into the lead at various points in the game, their offence couldn’t find a groove until late in the fourth quarter and by that point it was too late. And Dwight Howard being ejected from the game after two technical fouls in the first half didn’t help their cause either, although it gave Canadian big-man Robert Sacre an opportunity to get into the game. It’s the Lakers second loss in a row and eighth in their last 10 games. Nash finished third on the team in scoring with 16 points and nine assists.

“We find a lot of ways to make it interesting that’s for sure,” Nash said after the loss. “I’m disappointed obviously I think you have to give credit to Toronto for playing well. We’re disappointed in our performance… It’s a 10 a.m. west coast game and that’s not an excuse it’s a sign to come ready to play early and I don’t feel we were ready to play. I thought we cut too many different corners at different times in the game and dug ourselves too big of a hole to climb out of.”

The first half of the 2012-2013 season has been a struggle for both Nash and the Lakers. The 36-year-old point guard was supposed to be the perfect fit for the Lakers offence as one would think his pass-first mentality would mesh well with offensively gifted big men Dwight Howard and Paul Gasol. But Nash missed 24 of the Lakers first 26 games of the season with a fracture in his left leg and the Lakers have yet to find that championship chemistry within their lineup even with Nash now healthy.

The Raptors in the meantime snapped a four-game losing skid with the victory led by impressive performances from Jose Calderon, (22 points and nine assists) Ed Davis (18 points and eight rebounds) and Landry Fields (18 points and 10 rebounds.)

Nash says he sees a Lakers team that has potential, but he feels right now it’s cohesion that’s missing from the lineup. A month into the season that might not be a big concern especially for a team with so many new parts, but with half the season gone urgency has to kick in soon or this Lakers team that was considered a contender for the NBA title at the beginning of the season isn’t even going to be playing post-season basketball come April.

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