Underneath his inviting personality, optimistic outlook and relentless drive to stay healthy, Steve Nash has continually faced this preseason an uncomfortable reality.
No matter how many practices he misses and treatment he receives, the 39-year-old guard has faced what he calls a “day-to-day” struggle in ensuring he stays ahead of Father Time.
Nash participated all but the end of Thursday’s practice because of a neck Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described as “stiff.” Nash called his sore left ankle “good enough.” Meanwhile, it’s possible Nash will sit out of the Lakers’ preseason finale Friday against the Utah Jazz at Honda Center to ensure his back and hamstrings also stay healthy, injuries he spent all offseason rehabbing.
“Age ultimately wins all battles, but at the same time, I’m not going to concede everything,” Nash said. “I feel like I can do everything I’ve always done. It’s just a matter of if I have my body in a place where I can do it consistently and recover and be able to find that health to execute.”
The Lakers are monitoring other injuries.
Lakers forward Chris Kaman missed Thursday’s practice and isn’t expected to play against Utah after staying sidelined since Sunday because of a stomach virus stemmed from the team’s nine-day trip last week to China. D’Antoni also said Lakers guard Steve Blake has a stiff neck, though he practiced Thursday and likely will play against the Jazz. Of course, Kobe Bryant has continued rehabbing his left Achilles tendon.
But lots of the team’s health concerns center on Nash, who missed 32 games last season because of a fractured left leg and then persisting back and hamstring issues.
““He’s a trooper and trying to get out on the floor and practice with the guys as much as he can,” Bryant said. “At the same time, the season is right around the corner. He’s trying to knock them out as much as he possibly can going into game one.”
Nash plans to play in the Lakers’ season opener next Tuesday against the Clippers in a designated home game at Staples Center. But for how long?
He sat out of the last three quarters of the Lakers’ preseason loss two weeks ago to Sacramento in Las Vegas because of his sore left ankle. He skipped the second half of the Lakers’ preseason win Tuesday against Utah at Staples Center because of his neck.
“I want to play because I want to get a rhythm since I haven’t played games for five months,” said Nash, who has averaged 3.5 points on 42.9 percent shooting and 3.71 assists through six preseason games. “At the same time, I don’t want to do it to where I put myself out for a couple of weeks. Then you’re always chasing it.”
Nash sounds more willing to sit out because of the point guard depth in Blake and Jordan Farmar.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jordan and Steve and the team,” Nash said. “We have a lot of depth in a lot of areas.”
Nash also expressed more openness about sitting out in back-to-back games.
“My nature has been to push throughout my career,” he said. “Now might be the time where I need to be realistic. I don’t want to be closed to anything that will help myself or the team.”
The challenges keep piling up, but Nash seems intent on pushing.
“I’m fighting as much as I can to get through this year,” Nash said. “I’m up for the challenge. I felt excited and inspired by my teammates. I love being part of this team and want to do whatever I can to help be on the floor as much as possible. I’m not going to give up anytime soon.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org