PORTLAND, Ore. — Mike D’Antoni once scoffed at the skepticism surrounding Steve Nash’s health as he proved he could run his Phoenix Suns offense well enough through chronic back issues to win two NBA MVP awards.
But as Nash remains indefinitely sidelined for all but 10 games this season with persisting nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings, D’Antoni conceded skepticism on whether he’d actually play before the season ends in six weeks.
“I doubt it. I don’t think so. What’s the end game?” D”Antoni said Monday after morning shootaround in preparation for the Lakers’ (20-39) game tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers (41-18) at Moda Center. “We’ve talked about it. He’s not completely healthy and we have 23 games left and we’re not going to make the playoffs. What’s his objective to take his minutes away from young guys we’re trying to develop?”
D’Antoni also sounded doubtful about Kobe Bryant healing his fractured left knee in time to play this season. That injury, coupled with his initial recovery from his left Achilles tendon, has kept the Lakers’ star out for all but six games this season.
“Does he get back and play some games and get his rhythm back for next year and wait?” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know.”
D’Antoni deferred to Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti on Bryant’s recovery, but the Lakers coach downplayed Bryant’s potential return making a substantial difference in giving the team’s evolving roster and Bryant a chance to learn how to play with each other.
“You need to play about 40 games before you even do that,” D’Antoni said. “That wouldn’t be part of the equation, I don’t think.”
Both Bryant and Nash traveled with the Lakers to Portland. Bryant wasn’t present at morning shootaround, but Nash still sounded intent on returning if his body allowed him.
“We’ll see. I couldn’t really make a prediction,” Nash said. “If I get a chance, it’ll be great.”
Nash also sounded open toward taking a reduced role so that the Lakers could see how a crop of young players fit into their long-term plans, including point guards Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar as well as wingmen Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks.
“I’m totally up to whatever they want to do,” Nash said. “That’s fine.”