Steve Nash wanted to play Golden State, but respects decision to sit

Steve Nash didn’t earn the moniker as the world’s greatest teammate by accident.

His game predicates on passing teammates the ball. Nash continuously provides positive reinforcement. His pleasant and unassuming personality exudes a warmth and authenticity that makes others around him feel comfortable.

But Nash also remains competitive, and that’s why he admitted feeling hardly thrilled with sitting out in the Lakers’ 125-94 loss Wednesday to the Golden State Warriors for the sake of preserving his 39-year-old body.

He only relented about Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni convinced him otherwise.

“It wasn’t easy. I wanted to play,” said Nash, who will start tonight when the Lakers (1-1) host the San Antonio Spurs (1-0) at Staples Center. “I told Mike even before the game when we decided in the morning that I’d like to play. But in my 18th year, you realize it’s a long season. Mike made some good points to me about being conservative at this point. For now, I want try to do everything I can to get myself in better physical position and hopefully be able to contribute more.”

Nash started in the Lakers’ season opening win Tuesday against the Clippers, posting
a modest three points on one of three shooting and five assists in 21 minutes. The Lakers bench scored a combined 76 points, giving Nash extra comfort to rest. But he said afterwards “a couple of strange things happened” during the game without sharing specifics.

Throughout the preseason, Nash had nursed a sore left ankle and stiff neck. He’s also only a season removed when he missed a combined 32 games because of a broken left leg and issues in his right hamstring and back.

“I feel good enough right now to play and contribute,” Nash said. “I can feel better now obviously. But when it’s coming along, it’s coming better.”

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has often taken the long view toward resting his stars, such as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Duncan will actually miss tonight’s game because of a chest contusion.

Though the Lakers would like to adopt Popovich’s strategy on Nash this season, the circumstances seem different.

“Those guys always seem to take two weeks off of the season somehow,” Nash said. “That’s great. It’s smart. But they have the luxury to do it.”

“One, they usually are in a really nice position in the standings. Two, is their system. Guys come in, play the system and speed up the game when those guys aren’t playing. They move the ball for a short periods of time. They have a lot of success without their best players. The system deserves some of that credit. At the same time, they guys some rest so they’re fresh for the playoffs.”

D’Antoni also feels more comfortable sitting Nash on the second night of some back-to-backs partly because of the team’s added point guard depth in Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. Would Nash feel more comfortable sitting out should the Lakers build some cushion in the standings?

“Obviously we haven’t done anything yet so it’s all hands on deck,” Nash said. “At the same time, Steve and Jordan are really good players so we have the luxury to work with that.”

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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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