The moment the Lakers opened the doors for the media to descend on their practice floor, one significant person remained missing.
Yes, Kobe Bryant practiced in both half and full-court five-on-five scrimmages, playing at a deliberate pace and taking on a facilitating role with mixed success as he rehabs his left Achilles tendon. But Lakers guard Steve Nash wasn’t there. The Lakers say he practiced in full-court five-on-five drills without any limitations after missing the past 10 games because of persisting soreness in his back without any limitations.
“We didn’t want to push him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He looked good with 10 minutes. We gave him 10 today, give him 15 tomorrow and 20 the next day. We’re trying to ramp him up.”
But will that be enough for Nash to return when the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings Friday at Sleep Train Arena?
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the realm,” Nash said, “but probably very unlikely and very doubtful.”
Nash spent the past week in Vancouver with his personal trainer Rick Celebrini, trying to improve the postural stability and movement patterns that have led to nerve issues circulating through his surgically repaired left leg, left hamstring and sensitive spine. He reported “a lot of improvements” since feeling enough pain in his back to sit out of the second half of the Lakers’ loss Nov. 10 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But Nash conceded uncertainty on whether he felt healthier than he did in training camp. Since the season started, Nash experienced various ailments before that injury, including a sprained left ankle, sore quadriceps muscles and a stiff neck.
“It’s important as far as whether or not I play Friday to make the right decisions and not be hasty,” Nash said. “Sometimes the staff has to temper my outlook when I say, ‘I feel good, I’m going to play Friday. They have to be the ones that say, ‘That’s stupid. You’re jeopardizing the rest of the season by playing too soon.'”
Nash also sounded receptive to the idea if the Lakers want him to have a bench role after averaging only 6.7 points on 26.1 percent shooting and 4.8 assists in 22.5 minutes through six games.
“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team,” Nash said. “But the first thing I have to do is try get myself in a position where I can sustain the demands of the game. Right now my back is susceptible to those things.”
Though the Lakers have gone 6-4 in his absence, Nash’s return takes on greater urgency with backup point guard Jordan Farmar expected to stay sidelined for a month because of a torn left hamstring. That leaves the Lakers with only Steve Blake as the team’s true point guard.
“I don’t know about a quick comeback, but I was encouraged to practice today some and feel okay,” Nash said. “I have no doubt I’ll get back on the court. With all the issues with my spine and condition, it’s a matter of how sustainable it is. I’m working every day to try to build that quality, endurance and movement so I don’t decline and I’m not susceptible to all the demands of the game.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org