Steve Nash is not playing on Tuesday, and from the words Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni spoke at Monday's shootaround, the 40-year-old point guard may not be playing for the remainder of the season.
“I doubt it. I don’t think so. What’s the end game?” D”Antoni answered the reporters inquiring whether Nash would play again this season. “He’s not completely healthy, and we have 23 games left and we’re not going to make the playoffs.”
The Lakers have been consistent in supporting the 40-year-old since day one. Actually, it was game two that Nash broke his leg and never quite looked the same ever again. Age is the easy explanation, but the amount of work Nash has put in to make his 10 appearances this season is exhausting to think about. He has been working out twice a day for several months with the hopes of being fit enough to sustain a level of play acceptable in the NBA.
Age cannot be ignored, but the limitations of his injury are far more restrictive than his age and will.
Prior to his latest comeback, he spoke about that last attempt meaning just a slight bit more in terms of mortality in the NBA. Approaching his 40th birthday, Nash struggled to avoid explicitly saying the start of February may be the end of his career.
On Feb. 2, he came back and played 25 minutes. He looked rusty, but he could move freely. He said he was able to move better than he had at any point since the leg break occurred.
For Nash, that leg break caused a nerve root irritation that connected throughout his back, hamstring, leg and neck. Everything is connected in the human body, and Nash’s leg break disrupted his body beyond anything he ever imagined. It was definitely beyond anything the Lakers ever imagined, or D'Antoni probably never would have got the job.
A couple days shy of his 40th birthday, Nash was in the training room while his team played against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nash had only returned the night before, so he was sitting out. One precaution the aging point guard agreed to this season was sitting out when the team played two days in a row.
This game, however, was an odd one. The Lakers only suited up eight players, and Nick Young suffered a knee injury. Soon enough, the Lakers ran out of eligible players after Robert Sacre and Chris Kaman fouled out and Jordan Farmar’s calf tightened up. When Nash heard about this in the locker room, he quickly dressed and found his way onto the end of the bench.
He felt good, he knew he could play and he wanted to get into the game rather than gift Cleveland free points with every foul--the penalty when a team runs out of eligible players is a technical foul penalty on every personal foul. D’Antoni later said he would never have put Nash in because that wasn’t fair to the Canadian. Still, Nash was ready and confident enough to find his way to the bench.
Two days later, Nash turned 40 on Feb 7. He celebrated in a manner fitting one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Nash led the team to victory and looked as good as he ever had in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.
In 28 minutes, Nash scored 19 points, had five assists and pulled down four rebounds. Those numbers did not entirely do his performance justice. Nash looked good and his teammates were excited.
The next game, Nash did not make it to the third quarter after a collision caused contact in the same spot as his original leg break. His nerve felt the collision, and Nash could not finish the game. Desperate not to give up, Nash suited up the next game but did not look right. The training staff decided to shut him down and allow him to return after after the All-Star break.
Only, Nash never returned.
Eight games later, the Los Angeles Lakers are in Portland. His coach has all but ruled him out for the season. With the NBA's Stretch Provision, Lakers management has acknowledged that it is an option to waive Nash and spread his salary across three years to save the Lakers salary cap space.
Management has been clear that they will afford Nash every opportunity to make his own decision, but one has to believe that the sample of 10 games makes it improbable that Nash will be worth a roster spot next season.
To be honest, those 10 games should be discounted. In two of those games, Nash never made it to the second half. In two others, he did not play in the fourth quarter.
“What’s his objective to take his minutes away from young guys we’re trying to develop?” D’Antoni asked on Monday in Portland.
Well, Nash’s objective should be the same as the young guys on the roster; he should be trying out for a roster spot next season. From what he’s shown thus far this season, he has not provided enough evidence to deserve a position on next year’s Los Angeles Lakers.