Plenty can change within 24 hours for Steve Nash.
Persisting nerve pain, continuous wear and tear on a 40-year-old body and a revolving door in the Lakers’ training room all have fueled unpredictability to an already messy season.
But once Nash steps on the floor when the Lakers (25-50) host the Dallas Mavericks (45-31) Friday night at Staples Center, the ensuing moments could mark his last game of the season.
“This could be it tonight,” Nash said. “We’ll see. You never know what happens.”
Yet, Nash believes this scenario will unfold for two reasons despite the Lakers having seven games left.
Though he felt no additional pain in his sprained left ankle and nerve irritation in his back, Nash expressed skepticism he could recover in time to play when the Lakers visit the Clippers for a designated road game on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. The Lakers are also eying the possibility that Farmar will return on Tuesday when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. The Lakers then plan to shut Nash down so he can focus on his recovery while the Lakers evaluate how Farmar fits into their free agency plans.
Though Nash has played in only 7.3 points on 37.1 percent shooting and 5.7 assists through 13 games, he could finish the 2013-14 season in a much better physical state than in his first season with the Lakers. Then, Nash missed a combined 32 games because of a fractured left leg and ensuing nerve damage in his hamstrings and back. The latter injury hurt Nash so much that he could not even sprint in the Lakers’ first two playoff games to San Antonio before ultimately shutting it down. Nash reported his progress in the summer mostly entailed improving his postural stability and movement patterns before sprinting in late August and early September shortly before training camp.
“I’ll probably play more basketball,” Nash said of his offseason plans. “I couldn’t play basketball until September last year. I couldn’t play a lot last year. We’ll see. I have no idea how my body will respond so I’ll give it a shot.”
Meanwhile, Nash faces uncertainty on if he will actually return next season.
The Lakers could waive him via the stretch provision by Aug. 31, which would enable them to owe only $3 million of Nash’s $9.8 million salary annually through three years. But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said he will leave that decision up to Nash, who has vowed he play out his contract. The Lakers also would maximize their financial flexibility keeping Nash next season since his salary would come completely off the books in time to pursue a talented 2015 free agency class, including Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
But first things first.
Nash will play at least one more game with a chance to add on to his Hall of Fame worthy resume that includes two league MVP awards. Nash, who has compiled 10,323 career assists, remains 12 assists away from surpassing Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson (10,334) for third place on the NBA’s all-time assist list. The milestone appears reachable tonight considering Nash has averaged nine assists in the last three games he has played. Nash would then trail only John Stockton (15,806 assists) and Jason Kidd (12,091 assists).
“They were both two one of the greatest point guards to ever play,” Nash said. “I got to play against both of them and two guys I look up to. It’s great to be on a list. I feel fortunate I’ve been able to play as well as I have.”
At least for one more game.