During a failed Lakers season riddled with missed playoff fortunes and too many injuries to count, Steve Nash provided one dose of positive news.
The Lakers guard moved up to third place among the NBA’s all-time assists leaders, eclipsing Golden State coach Mark Jackson after tallying his sixth assist in the Lakers game Tuesday against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. After missing the past three games because of nerve irritation in his back, Nash came off the bench and broke the record after recording his fifth assist of the game with XX remaining in the XX quarter.
Nash’s record-breaking assist entailed throwing a cross-court pass to Jodie Meeks, who converted a two-handed dunk with 2:14 left in the second quarter. Nash also set up Meeks on another fast-break dunk, as well as a mid-range jumper for Jordan Hill and three-pointers for Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson. Once Nash left the game with 1:14 left in the second quarter, the fans at Staples Center gave him a rousing ovation.
The Lakers originally planned to shut Nash down once Jordan Farmar returned from a sprained right groin that sidelined him for the past 11 games. But Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni changed his mind in part so Nash could break the record.
“He’s healthy enough. We don’t want to go too crazy,” D’Antoni said. “But he can play some minutes and he wants to play. There’s some goals there. Why not. There’s some goals here. Why not? He can end up the year the best he can.”
“Mike really wants me to get this assist thing out of the way,” Nash said. “Now I would really like to get it out of the way frankly. It’s out there in the air and everybody is talking about it in a way.”
Nash, who entered the game with 10,330 assists, surpassed Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who had 10,334 assists through a 17-year NBA career that included the New York Knicks (1987-92, 2001-02), Clippers (1992-94), Indiana Pacers (1994-96, 1997-2000), Denver Nuggets (1996-97), Toronto Raptors (2000-01), Utah Jazz (2002-03) and Houston Rockets (2003-04). Nash laughed when a reporter suggested he should wait until the Lakers play Golden State on Friday so he could break the record in front of Jackson.
“Leave some on the bone?” Nash said jokingly. “There is no guarantee. You can go out there tonight and get hurt in the first five minutes. I’m not foolish enough to think anything is given. You have to go out there and earn it. Frankly, it’s one of those things I want to get it over with in a way. If I can. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world. If I can put it behind me, it would be nice not to have to talk about it anymore.”
Nash, 40, then joked he pass former Utah guard John Stockton, who tops the list with 15,806 assists, “by next Christmas.” Nash also trails Jason Kidd, who had 12,091 assists.
“They’re all great players,” Mike D’Antoni said.