Despite a tumultuous two-year stretch in which he has taken more visits to the trainer’s room than the basketball court, Steve Nash will remain on the Lakers’ roster. The deadline for the Lakers to use the so-called stretch provision passed over the weekend, ensuring that Nash will finish out the final year of his contract worth $9.7 million.
This development is hardly surprising. The Lakers leaned toward retaining Nash ever since last season, mindful that waiving him would compromise the team’s financial flexibility since it would owe a third of his salary for the following three seasons. The Lakers would have only gone down this route had they acquired LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony and would need to clear up immediate cap space. Despite Nash’s Hall-of-Fame credentials, he does not hold much trade value because of his tenuous health. Once it became official that James would go to Cleveland and Anthony would stay in New York, Nash’s future appeared cemented with the Lakers.
Even with Nash staying in what he has said will likely be his last season of an otherwise accomplished 19-year career, the Lakers are mindful that his health issues may linger. The sensitive nature in Nash’s back injury kept him sidelined for all but 15 game last season. The Lakers are expected to rest him on the second night of back-to-back games. The Lakers also acquired Jeremy Lin in a trade from Houston to add reinforcements around Nash. Because of those health limitations, it is even possible Nash would only play a limited role off the bench.
Yet, the Lakers valued keeping Nash for a number of reasons. His entire $9.7 million salary will expire after this season. Nash would become a mentor for Lin and a positive locker room presence on a rebuilding team. There is also the chance Nash could turn back the clock with vintage performances in a handful of games, perhaps even more.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org