Los Angeles Lakers guards Kobe Bryant, left, and Steve Nash confer during a break in action in the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets’ 126-114 victory over the Lakers in an NBA game in Denver on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. (David Zalubowski/AP File Photo)
LAS VEGAS — The partnership seemed unlikely given how they spent so many years competing against each other in heated playoff battles. But both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash rightfully gushed about the possibilities once they became teammates two years ago, knowing the NBA’s best scorer and passer of this past generation would give defenses fits every single night.
That dream scenario never happened, though. Nash played in only a combined 65 games in the past two years before the Lakers ruled him out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring nerve damage in his back. Meanwhile, Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon shortly before the 2013 playoffs, only to appear in six games the following season because of a left knee injury.
So even if Bryant reported Nash feeling in good spirits after the two touched base on Thursday night, how much can Bryant relate to any frustration Nash may currently experience? After all, both have earned universal praise regarding their methodical approach toward training, rehabbing and dieting.
“You can control what you can control, so he did everything possible to get back to playing at a high level so from that standpoint he should be able to sleep at night,” Bryant said. “I know I would. I could only think about that in my situation and I just tried to do everything possible to be ready, and it wasn’t in the cards, if I couldn’t get back to being at that level then you just have to accept it. But you have to know that when you put your head down at night that you did everything possible.”
“The Lakers’ Steve Nash does a behind the back pass after driving the key on the Wizards’ Trevor Ariza, Friday, March 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)”
LAS VEGAS — Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak no longer has to handle the uncertainty on whether Steve Nash can either stay healthy or recover quickly enough to return to the court. But with the Lakers announcing that they have ruled Nash out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring back problems, how will they address their point guard vacancy?
It doesn’t appear they will settle this right away. Kupchak said he feels “okay” with the Lakers current crop of point guards, including veteran Ronnie Price, Jeremy Lina and rookie Jordan Clarkson. But the Lakers will apply for the disabled player exception, which will allow them to sign a free agent or trade for a player worth half of Nash’s salary ($4.85 million). The Lakers also plan to trim their 17-player roster to 14 by the season opener next Tuesday against Houston at Staples Center. Nash will still take up a roster spot because he is owed a guaranteed $9.8 million before his contract ends after this season. Meanwhile, Price suffered a sore right knee in the Lakers’ preseason game against the Sacramento Kings at MGM Grand Arena.
“Will we look to get another backcourt player?” Kupchak said. “I don’t know.”
Kupchak also sounded unsure on the likelihood that Nash would serve as a de facto assistant coach, a role that Lakers coach Byron Scott and players have endorsed because of his vast experience as a
two-time NBA MVP and third-place standing on the league’s all-time assists list.
“I think he needs to get away,” Kupchak said. “We talked about how welcome he’d be and how he wants to support his teammmates and how he’d like to come back. I’d like to see him out there working out there shooting. But I don’t see him as a shooting coach. He has so many things going on in his life. Maybe one day he would want to coach. Hes a pretty diverse business man. He has a lot of opportunities.”
“The Lakers’ Steve Nash drives the baseline on the Wizards’ Andre Miller, Friday, March 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)”
LAS VEGAS — The Lakers prepared for their upcoming game the same way they have always done for most of them the past two seasons. They knew that Steve Nash would stay sidelined because of another injury.
But this time, the circumstances changed. The Lakers tried absorbing the unsettling reality that Nash would remain out for the entire 2014-15 season before it even began because of recurring nerve irritation in his back.
“We feel more for Steve than anybody because I saw how hard this kid worked out all summer long to get ready for the season,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “It hurts the team. He’s obviously the best point guard and one of the best that ever played the game. I know it hurts him. This is something he wants to do. He loves playing basketball.”
Scott has not spoken with Nash since the the Lakers announced the news on Thursday evening. He figured the 40-year-old point guard would “need some space” in digesting the latest string of injury news that has become constant in the past two seasons. Nash had stayed sidelined for the past week and a half because of worsening back issues, but Scott said deferred to Nash and the Lakers’ training staff on determining he could not play at all this season.
“I got a sense it would probably be like last year,” said Scott, mindful that Nash played only 15 games sprinkled throughout the 2013-14 campaign. “I got the sense this is probably something that will be ongoing and I have to figure out which games he can play and which games he can’t.”
Lakers guard Steve Nash was officially ruled out for the 2014-15 season on Thursday after having recurring back problems. Staff photo: Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News
You read about Lakers guard Steve Nash being ruled out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring nerve damage in his back, likely marking the end of a Hall of Fame career that entails two NBA MVP’s and a third place standing on the league’s all-time assists list. You read about how the Lakers grew more concerned about Nash’s health and future after staying sidelined for the past week and a half. You read about how the Lakers and Nash felt cautiously optimistic about his health early in training camp.
But pictures always tell a 1,000 words. And in the case of LANG’s photo gallery of Nash, plenty of images tell various stories how he had still etched a Hall of Fame career before his endless health struggles the past three seasons with the Lakers.
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Lakers growing more concerned with Steve Nash’s health
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at email@example.com
File photo: Los Angeles Lakers’ Steve Nash, right, passes off the ball as Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Pauldefends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (Danny Moloshok/The Associated Press file photo)
Despite having a full offseason in which he trained without any limitations, Steve Nash’s health worsened enough that the Lakers have declared him out for the entire 2014-15 season.
Nash had stayed sidelined for the past week and a half because of a recurring nerve damage in his back that kept him out for all but 15 games last season. The 40-year-old point guard has become riddled with injuries ever since fracturing his left leg two years ago in only his second game with the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Lakers will have to stomach his $9.8 million salary in the final year of his guaranteed contract.
“Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now,” Nash said in a statement. “I work very hard to stay healthy and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health.”
The images replay over and over again. But like a summer blockbuster that relies heavily on special effects, the action never becomes too boring to watch.
Lakers backup center Ed Davis leaps through the lane with gravity-defying dunks and easy finishes at the basket. Davis also appears to jump off a trampoline when he swats away shots that his opponents throw at the basket. This has happened with so much frequency that Davis leads the Lakers both in field-goal percentage (71.4 percent) and ranks second in the NBA in blocked shots (2.3 per night).
Not a bad audition tape for Davis, who is competing for the backup center position against Robert Sacre. Not a bad message to show the Lakers that he is worthy of a role after signing this offseason to a two-year, $2 million deal. Not a bad effort in showing he could thrive after spending a five-year NBA career with Toronto and Memphis struggling to find a consistent role.
“I’m just playing hard every night,” Davis said. “The NBA is a long year with injuries and guys going down. With trades, you never know what’s going to happen. So you always just have to be ready. That’s what I do. I’m going to be ready every night, if I play 10 minutes or 20 minutes. I’m
going to be ready.”
ONTARIO — A gravity-defying steal that stopped an alley oop lob. A coast-to-coast drive that brought nearly every Lakers fan to their feet, drew a foul and ended in two made free throws. A journey across the court that captures what Julius Randle hopes becomes a lasting impression in his Lakers’ rookie season and beyond.
Randle cemented his best game in training camp. He posted a team-leading 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds 24 minutes off the bench in the Lakers’ 94-86 victory Wednesday over the Portland Trail Blazers at Citizens Business Bank Arena by seemingly doing everything.
Randle canned mid-range jumpers with ease. He made defensive stops. Randle handled the ball coast-to-coast. He performed all of these tasks with both efficiency and ease, sparking one of the 7,174 fans in attendance to yell something that brought everything in perspective.
“He’s only 19 years old baby!” the fan yelled.
Here’s another thing that should leave the Lakers giddy, particularly Kobe Bryant as he sat out to rest him for the regular season beginning next week. Randle revealed he developed his ball handling that enabled him to drive coast-to-coast by emulating a certain Lakers star growing up and dismissing comparisons to a former adversary.
“People used to tell me I’m going to be the next Shaq,” said Randle, the 6-9, 250 pound forward growing in height and strength at an early age. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be the next Shaq. I want to be Kobe.’ I always dribbled the ball everywhere I went.”
ONTARIO — Those in the Inland Empire and in Las Vegas hoping to catch a glimpse of Kobe Bryant are out of luck.
Bryant will miss the Lakers’ last two preseason games, including tonight against Portland in Ontario and against Sacramento on Friday in Las Vegas.
The Lakers says the 36-year-old Bryant have not suffered any injuries. But he will rest so he can feel fully charged for when the regular season starts next Tuesday against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
Lakers coach Byron Scott had originally planned to increase Bryant’s workload leading into the 2014-15 regular season. But Bryant logged a preseason-high 33 minutes in the Lakers’ 114-108 preseason loss on Tuesday to the Phoenix Suns in Anaheim.
Bryant averaged 19 points on 38.4 percent shooting and four assists in 26.7 minutes per game through six exhibition contests.
Meanwhile, Lakers center Jordan Hill remains a game-time decision after suffering a cervical strain in the team’s preseason loss on Tuesday to Phoenix. Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson will make his first appearance after missing the past five contests because of a strained left calf muscle.
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, gestures to count a basket as forward Wesley Johnson, center, and forward Julius Randle react as referees nullify it during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Lakers on 98-91. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Kobe Bryant might not believe ESPN are the only idiots in town. The Lakers’ star might feel that way about the NBA’s general managers, too.
The latest NBA.com general manager survey lists Bryant as the league’s third best shooting guard behind Houston’s James Harden (63%) and Golden State’s Klay Thompson (18.5%).
Bryant took offense last year when he was ranked second behind Harden, claiming the league’s general managers simply believed Bryant would “play on one leg.” But that turned out to be generous. Bryant only played six games last season amid overlapping injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee.
The clock is winding down. The game is on the line. And because of those two variables, every single play magnifies.
Kobe Bryant lives for those moments, cementing his 19-year NBA career that feature far too many clutch performances and game winners to count. But so does Jeremy Lin, who has admitted he cares more about finishing games than starting them.
“You just love it,” Lin said. “As a kid you always think about hitting that shot at the buzzer or making that one game-winning play. When the game is on the line, you have a chance to do that.”
The Lakers’ 114-108 preseason loss on Tuesday to the Phoenix Suns may have featured Lin’s first game back since nursing a left sprained ankle that kept him out for the previous three exhibition games. But Lin could not have provided a better audition tape on stating his case for finishing games after finishing with 15 points on 3 of 5 shooting and five assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
Most of Lin’s production happened in the fourth quarter, where he posted 11 points and two assists by driving aggressively through traffic and organizing the offense. He scored seven consecutive points for the Lakers at one point that included a 27-foot three-pointer, a finger roll and a pair of free throws. And he played all but 11 seconds in the final period before fouling out.
Lin provided the 8,037 fans at Honda Center plenty to cheer about beyond Bryant’s late-game scoring. Meanwhile, Steve Nash’s back remaining tenuous, while nine-year veteran Ronnie Price started for the fourth consecutive game. So will Lin close out games in the future?
“This was more of a chance seeing him play 20 something minutes and for Ronnie to get some rest,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “We’ll see how both those guys feel tomorrow.”