“In the last two games, I’ve felt about as free as I have in a couple years,” Steve Nash said at Saturday’s Los Angeles Lakers practice in El Segundo.
The 40-year-old point guard was constantly reminded of his birthday before, during and after Friday’s win in Philadelphia. Nash led all scorers on the night and was moving like he never had since arriving in Los Angeles.
For 40, Nash looked great.
“I’m a little stiff,” Nash said the day after his 40th birthday. “This will be a big challenge for me because of a six-hour flight and an early game on Sunday, so I definitely got to try to get my rest and do my work to be ready to go.”
Nash said he stood on the flight back from Philadelphia about as often as he could to avoid getting stiff. He was doing all the work required to loosen up his back and allow him to continue on the path that had him back to this point.
“With this injury, I’m never going to count my chickens,” Nash said with reserved caution.
Though he outright denied ever seriously considering the thought of retirement, he acknowledged the voices that have been pleading for him to hang up his shoes and save the Lakers a bit of money. Those voices constantly painted Nash as a stiff who could not get out of bed, let alone play basketball for the Lakers.
“I get it,” Nash said to the fans who have been publicly begging him to retire. “I’m at the end of my career, and I’ve been hurt a lot, so I understand where some of the fans come from and their perspective. At the same time, I have a job to do.”
Nash came into the NBA in the same draft as Kobe Bryant, so he is an experienced veteran. The 40-year-old does not directly see or hear most of what is written and said about him, but he contended that he is aware of those voices and words.
The main thought out there is that Nash should toss in the towel on his Hall-of-Fame career and claim medical retirement to save the Lakers some extra cap space. Shockingly, Nash is selfish enough to show up to work and try to do the best job he can do.
“I’d be lying if I said it feels good when people are negative towards you,” Nash admitted before brushing off the comments by reminding reporters that he had heard worse.
Unlike Bryant, who seems to feed off negativity, Nash does not welcome the hate.
“I feel that that can be fleeting—if you’re always trying to find motivation from others,” the Canadian said. “I always try to motivate myself from within and be consistent with that, find a way every day to push myself, especially the days you don’t feel like it.”
“Absolutely,” Nash responded without hesitation when asked if he appreciated playing the game even more after his struggle. “That’s why I fought to get back. It is fun, and I love the game.”
Standing in front of the small contingent of reporters who turned up for a Saturday practice, Nash thought hard about when his body last felt as good as it did now. In terms of rhythm and understanding teammates, Nash said last year had some bright spots. He admitted he was currently still a long way from being back in rhythm.
“There were times last year where I started to play pretty well, especially the month before I got hurt.” However, the 40-year-old trumped that statement when he shared his 40th birthday present to himself. “As far as moving well, this is about as good as I’ve felt since before I broke my leg.”