Well, it’s finally official: Steve Nash will be a member of the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers.
The hullabaloo surrounding medical retirement, the stretch provision and the salary cap reached a fever pitch during the 2013-14 season, but the Lakers’ front office ignored the calls and decided that having Nash around for one more year was the best course of action for the team moving forward.
Over the Labor Day weekend, the Lakers needed to file paperwork to stretch the Canadian point guard’s contract over three years and cut him from the roster. But that did not happen. Instead, the Lakers will honor the entirety of Nash’s contract, as was originally planned when the Lakers traded for the point guard in the summer of 2012.
Of course, Nash’s expiring contract may eventually turn into a valuable trade asset come February, but for now, the Lakers are holding onto their aging point guard. The 40-year-old will hope to improve on the 15-game season he produced in his penultimate season as a professional.
Struggling through nerve issues that affect his back, neck and legs, Nash averaged only 20.9 minutes per game, the fewest since he was a rookie. Sadly, the Manhattan Beach resident only managed 6.8 points and 5.7 assists per game.
Despite his struggles on the court and in the training room, though, Nash remained the ultimate professional. When medical retirement was a real possibility, the Canadian did not shy away from the topic and took the time to be clear about why he worked through the setbacks and his motivation to continue playing: his love for the game.
Not one to shy away from controversy, Nash honestly answered critical fans who pleaded with him to retire. In a web documentary series he produced alongside Grantland, Nash admitted that the financial aspect was a huge factor. Despite the loud negative voices on the radio, in the newspapers and in the pundit galleries, the fans at Staples Center applauded every appearance and celebrated every action from the visibly brittle Canadian.
During the 2014-15 season, Nash memorably hit his highest note on his 40th birthday. On that night in Philadelphia, the birthday boy celebrated by scoring 19 points and showing flashes of the greatness that should quickly land him in the Hall of Fame.
With Mike D’Antoni gone and Byron Scott in charge, Nash’s role and level of involvement is yet to be determined. Of course, his health will play a factor, but with Jeremy Lin joining the purple and gold via trade, Nash will likely only be asked to play a backup role. Further, with rookie Jordan Clarkson showing promise, Nash may transition into a mentoring role sooner rather than later.
To be clear, though, Nash has consistently expressed interest in playing until the final day of his contract. His competitiveness and drive shows in his never-ending work ethic. Although he sounded positive when discussing taking on a mentor role, Nash wants to play. His goal is not to sit on the bench and collect a check.
Nash will work every day until the Lakers call time on the season and he calls time on his career. In many ways, the example of a 41-year-old legend refusing to quit on the practice court and fighting to play every second may provide the best mentoring of all.