Steve Nash says Mike D’Antoni wants him to return to move up on assists list

Steve Nash holds a theory on why he will play when the Lakers (25-51) host the Houston Rockets (51-25) at Staples Center.

Sure, Nash loves the game. The Lakers are in dire need of bodies considering Kent Bazemore’s season-ending right foot injury leaves them with an eight-man rotation. Even if the Lakers have no chance of making the playoffs, Nash wants to use the five remaining games as “a barometer” in what his offseason work will entail in healing the nerve irritation in his back.

But there’s another reason why Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni changed his decision to play Nash despite Jordan Farmar returning tonight after missing the past 11 games because of a strained right groin. Nash remains five assists away from climbing up to third place on the NBA’s all-time list.

“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 has 10,330 assists, would pass 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). Will Nash wait until the Lakers play Golden State on Friday so he can surpass 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.” In all seriousness, though, Nash suggested it would be a better idea to sit out to maximize his health. He’s entering the final year of his contract worth $9.8 million. Though the Lakers could use the stretch provision on him by Aug. 31, they are likely to keep Nash in part because his salary would be completely removed from their books following the 2014-15 season. If Nash was waived, the Lakers would owe him about $3 million annually for the next three years.

“I could play all or be done tonight,” Nash said. “It’s up to my body, the team and coach and what we decide to do. The smart thing is not play all of them and just go in the summer healthy. That’s the number one thing now. Now that I have a chance to play again and have felt pretty good, I have something to build on and go into the summer healthy without a deficit. That would be a big thing for me.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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