Among Steve Nash’s two-time MVP’s and fourth place standing on the NBA’s all-time assists leaders, here’s one number that won’t become part of his resume during his eventual induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nash will make his 161st appearance out of 1,213 games as a reserve when the Lakers (22-45) host the Washington Wizards (35-33) tonight at Staples Center. The Lakers originally shut him down last week because of nerve irritation in his back and hamstrings that sidelined him for all but 10 games. But the Lakers have only one healthy point guard in Kendall Marshall after Jordan Farmar strained his right groin this week, an injury that will keep him out for at least two weeks.
“I don’t know how much I can play and be available,” Nash said. “But if I can help out of the bullpen, it’ll be fun for me.”
D’Antoni envisions playing Nash about five to six minutes each half behind Marshall. The Lakers are mindful Nash hasn’t played since Feb. 11, has only progressed toward full non-contact practices and could face additional setbacks with his health. After playing the first six games, Nash rehabbed for three months and made only four more appearances before a collision with Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich disrupted the nerves in his left leg, which was fractured last season and sidelined him for 24 games.
“That’s a really difficult thing for me to do when I play,” Nash said. “I forget all about that stuff. It’s adrenaline and I don’t really even think about contact. If I get hit again, I get hit again, I’ll be pretty unlucky. But I don’t think about it.”
The Lakers have other injuries to monitor beyond Nash.
Nick Young and Jordan Hill are expected to play after nursing knee injuries in recent weeks. Wesley Johnson will sit out because of an upper respiratory infection. D’Antoni said he plans to start Kent Bazemore at small forward while featuring Robert Sacre at power forward and Pau Gasol at center after experimenting with that combination in the Lakers’ loss Wednesday against San Antonio.
But plenty of intrigue surrounds Nash’s return because of the unexpected circumstances.
“It’s a big step to take a two-time MVP and say you come off the bench to help a team that’s win 1-85,” D’Antoni said. “Since he hasn’t’ practice and done a lot and we want to be cautious, not starting him makes sense.”
Nash has become well respected in NBA circles, including the Lakers, for his work ethic, sharp passing and pleasant personality. But he’s become a divisive figure among Laker fans. Nash has averaged 7.6 points on 36 percent shooting and 4.7 assists through 10 games, the minimum amount of games needed to prevent a medical retirement. Nash could not opt for a medical retirement, however, unless an NBA appointed physician determined he wasn’t fit to play. Nash also conceded in his recent video series with Grantland that he wants to play in the 2014-15 season in part so he could earn the $9.7 million owed to him in his final year of his contract.
“I think anyone who has some sort of critical thinking ability in the situation would think, ‘Who wouldn’t?’ It is a contract and we fight for every five, six , seven, eight years to hold on to guaranteed contracts in our business,” Nash said. “I came here with the highest of hopes, broke my leg playing here and I think people respect the fact that’s honest. Anyone who wouldn’t say that is not trustworthy.”
Still, Nash maintained that even amid two injury plagued seasons with the Lakers, he has embraced the experience.
“A lot of fans are really supportive of what I went through,” Nash said. “Of course the ones with a negative perspective have a lot of voices. But I’ve had an unbelievable time here and incredible support from the majority of fans. I don’t know hw yit would be any different.