Steve Nash’s self-expectations hardly mirrored the dazzling passes, smooth jumper and the dependable free throw shooting that makes him a surefire Hall of Famer.
“I just want to be moving well,” Nash said Tuesday morning.
Nearly 10 hours later, Nash couldn’t pass that benchmark. He left the second half of the Lakers’ 96-79 loss Tuesday to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center after feeling more nerve irritation in his back and hamstrings. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni listed him as day-to-day, making it possible Nash could play Thursday before Oklahoma City.
Whether Nash pushes through or rests through NBA All-Star weekend, it’s clear the Lakers don’t have the same excitement as they did last week when Nash posted 19 points and five assists in Philadelphia on his 40th birthday.
“I’m pretty concerned,” Lakers guard Steve Blake said. “I know he’s dealing with a lot of pain and I see how hard he has to work just to get the few minutes he has been playing. Then that he’s out again, you never know how serious it is. I’m concerned for him.”
Nash has left the second half for two consecutive games because of persisting nerve issues under different circumstances. Nash left midway through the third quarter of the Lakers’ loss Sunday to Chicago about four minutes after bumping into Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich on a screen. Nash didn’t play in the second half entirely against Utah, though the Lakers say the prevailing nerve pain didn’t stem from any on-court play.
Nash had acknowledged feeling “a little irritation” Tuesday morning, but believed he could play through it.
“I feel bad for him,” Lakers guard Kendall Marshall said. “You don’t want to see any player of his caliber go through that. He’s been fighting so hard just to stay healthy. I want to see him get well in the nerves and back.”
Perhaps easier said than done.
Nash played the first six games of the season before a full offseason controlling the nerves suddenly went to waste. Nash then devoted three months fixing the issue again, only for Nash’s four-game stint to feature two hasty exits. This all stemmed from last season when Nash fracturing his left leg, sparking nerve damage that eventually penetrated toward his hamstrings and back. All those ailments kept him out for a combined 32 games, including two playoff appearances.
“He’s been an inspiration for me before I even knew him and the player that he is and style of game,” Blake said. “Then you get to know him and see how hard he works to prepare himself to get out there. I loved being out there with him. It’s a shame he had to go out again.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org