On Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers met for morning shootaround in Oklahoma City ahead of a night-time game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hidden under Wednesday’s announcement that Kobe Bryant was ruled out for the season, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had effectively also ruled out Steve Nash for the season. However, Phil Jackson and Bryant stole the headlines, so Nash’s season ending was hardly even a blip on the radar.
"Well, I think he's a little bit of the same boat Kobe is," D'Antoni said about Nash after Wednesday's practice. "Make sure he’s ready for next year, if that's what he wants to do. And get him 100 percent well. Really makes no sense to force him into something that [he's] probably not ready to do."
"Again, we’re getting to the point in the season when it makes no sense," D'Antoni concluded.
On Thursday, D’Antoni confirmed that Nash was out for the season. At that point, Bryant’s season-ending news and his comments directed at Lakers’ management had been digested, so reporters paid attention to discussions about Nash.
"He's not going to play," D'Antoni explicitly stated on Thursday when asked about Nash returning this season.
With Nash ruled out for the year, the Lakers and the Canadian have a decision to make regarding his return to the team next season. First of all, Nash needs to assess his body and make the decision on whether he wants to attempt a comeback. Nash is 40 at this point, and he'll turn 41 during the upcoming season. Considering he only played 10 games this season, one would naturally expect he may be even more limited with an added year on the calendar.
If Nash decides to stick with it and come back, the Lakers have two options. One, they can allow Nash to play out the final year of his contract and collect a $9.7 million check next season. Two, they can waive Nash via the stretch provision and spread his salary out over three years, providing greater financial flexibility for the 2014-15 season but handicapping the Lakers for an additional two season.
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Looking back at the trade to bring Nash to Los Angeles, the Lakers gambled on the aging point guard and lost. Now, it is clear to see that the question is how much they lost rather than if they lost.