When Steve Nash stepped onto the court Friday night against the Washington Wizards, the crowd applauded.
Nash has been a polarizing figure in Laker-land this season, but the crowd at Staples Center displayed its appreciation for the 40-year-old all-time great. That response was not guaranteed and neither was Nash stepping onto the court again.
For the first time since March of 2000, 14 years earlier, Nash came into a game off the bench. He exceeded expectations and earned even more applause.
At Friday’s morning shootaround, the plan set forth by Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was to play the aging point guard five to six minutes per half. In his pregame press conference, the coach slightly increased that number to six to eight minutes per half.
However, the moment Nash stepped onto the floor, D’Antoni joined the crowd in admiring how good the future Hall-of-Fame point guard looked. He looked great. In eight first-half minutes, Nash made one of his two shots and provided five assists. If his teammates had converted a few more shots, Nash would have collected a few more assists.
“He said he felt pretty good,” D’Antoni recalled speaking to Nash at halftime.
In the third quarter, Nash played less than four minutes and collected another five assists. He continued to display class, quality and skill that the Lakers have consistently lacked this season.
“When I came out in the fourth, [coach] said, ‘I want you to finish the game, so if I sit you down, you can come back,’” Nash recalled after the game. “It was nice to be called on.”
To that point, Nash had played 15 minutes and was near the minute-limit D’Antoni had set in the pregame and past the minute-limit set at shootaround. Nash would return for an extra three and a half minutes before his hamstring “tweaked” and he “irritated the nerve a touch.”
“Maybe I miss a game; maybe I play on Sunday,” Nash said after the game. “Little bit of a setback, but hopefully, we caught it in time so I finish the season—actually, let’s just say, I can play again.”
Nash was hopeful that he would be able to play on Sunday, but standing at his lockers after the game, he was already considering the idea of sitting out against the Orlando Magic.
"Especially after not playing for five weeks, to be honest, it was probably pretty stupid to play tonight for me,” Nash admitted. “I just want to play, and we don’t have much to lose at this point, except for the rest of the season for me, but I just wanted to play."
On Saturday, Nash did not practice and was listed as a game-time decision for Sunday.
Notes: Xavier Henry underwent an MRI on his left wrist on Saturday. X-rays on Henry’s wrist were negative on Friday night. He is a game-time decision on Sunday. Wesley Johnson, who was ill on Friday night, expects to return to the starting lineup on Saturday. Also, Jordan Hill will join Pau Gasol, Johnson, Meeks and Marshall as the starters.