Steve Nash & Jordan Hill return to practice, Hill not expected to play against Spurs

The moment the doors opened at the Lakers’ practice facility, Lakers guard Steve Nash remained at the top of the key running the team’s half-court offense. Lakers forward Jordan Hill appeared down on the block, defending center Dwight Howard.

Those instances both signified progress for respective injuries to Nash (right hamstring) and Hill (left hip) as the Lakers prepare for their first-round series beginning Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Nash said he’s “very optimistic” that he will play, though nothing will become official until he goes through full-court drills during Saturday’s practice.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” said Nash, who has remained sidelined for the past eight games. “The last three weeks, I get up every morning thinking today is the day. I want to hang myself after practice. So I don’t want to overpromise at this point.”

Hill isn’t expected to play in the first-round series against San Antonio since he still yet has played in full-court five-on-five and contact drills. He also hasn’t reached his fully body weight on the treadmill within the past week since running for the first time since suffering a left hip surgery in January that required surgery. And the Lakers originally tabbed his timetable to last between three to four weeks once he begins basketball-related drills.

“Not ready yet,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, “but not too far away.”

Nash appears close, though.

During the practice session open to the media, Nash ran pick-and-roll plays, set up entry passes in the post and boasted an accurate shooting stroke. Nash played alongside Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake, a possible starting lineup for Game 1.

“He’s moving well,” Blake said. “He was just himself. He can shoot even if he couldn’t run. He’ll be fine.”

But Nash said issues remain.

He will spend Saturday’s practice to see if he can participate in full court five-on-five and contact drills. Nash plans to test whether he can fully sprint without feeling much inhibition from his nerves. And he hopes another day will give him more time to feel the affects of an epidural shot that he received on Tuesday.

“There was too much inhibition from the nerve,” Nash said. “It was shutting me down anytime I had to cover some ground. That’s why I couldn’t play the last few weeks. It’s hard to play in the NBA game if you can’t change ends of the floor. That’s the last bit I’km hoping for. It’s feeling a little close.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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