OKLAHOMA CITY — Steve Nash moved all around the court at a brisk pace, knocking down jumper after jumper.
But nearly a week after expressing strong doubt Nash would play this season because of persisting nerve issues in his back and hamstrings, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni officially ruled Nash out for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
“He’s not going to play,” D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t make any sense for him to come back for 15-18 games.”
Nash has appeared in only 10 games this season, averaging 7.6 points on 36.4. percent shooting and 4.7 assists in 22 minutes. He has missed the past 12 games after colliding with Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich on Feb. 9, which opened up nerve irritation in his previously fractured left knee.
“I’ve been ready to play for the last two weeks,” Nash told this newspaper. “I’ve been ready to play. But they want to see these guys, evaluate for next year and see if they bring back a lot of guys. The tenuous nature of my health, they probably don’t need the distraction of me coming back in and out of the lineup. I’m just here if needed.”
Nash still traveled with the Lakers during their two-game trip to Oklahoma City (tonight) and San Antonio (Friday), participating in shooting drills and continuously rehabbing his back and hamstrings. But D’Antoni suggested as early as last week that Nash wouldn’t play in hopes the Lakers could fully evaluate a crop of young perimeter players, including Kendall Marshall, Jordan Farmar, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. The Lakers are also fearful more appearances could derail Nash’s progress.
Nash spent an entire offseason and about three months this season rehabbing his nerve issues with his person trainer Rick Celebrini in Vancouver, but lasted only six games before feeling additional pain. Nash rehabbed again for another four months only to appear in four games, which included a season-high 19 points in Philadelphia on Feb. 7. Two days later, Nash collided with Hinrich and played limited minutes the following game against Utah before sitting out.
Because Nash played in his 10th game this season, his $9.7 million salary next season will remain on the Lakers’ books even if he is forced into medical retirement. The Lakers could waive Nash by Aug 31. Such a move would allow the Lakers to pay the nearly $9.7 million owed to Nash through three seasons and ensure only $3 million counts against their salary cap annually. But the Lakers could hold onto Nash since his salary would then be completely removed from their books following the 2014-15 season, giving them more purchasing power in that offseason.
“I’ve proven I can play. I just haven’t been able to sustain,” Nash said. This is where I am and what’s asked of me so I’m trying to make the most of that route and build some resilience for the future. They know I’d like to play, but I think they also understand the situation. I completely get it.”