A day after the Los Angeles Lakers announced that Kobe Bryant would miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season with his left leg fracture, sparking off a mass airing of front office grievances from the Laker legend, the team’s beleaguered coach has announced that Steve Nash will also miss the rest of this woeful campaign. Laker head man Mike D’Antoni told the media on Thursday that Nash, who won two NBA Most Valuable Player awards under D’Antoni’s watch in Phoenix, will sit out the remainder of the season while dealing with leg, back, and nerve woes.
“Woes” would be putting things mildly. Nash hasn’t been the same since breaking his left leg in the fall of 2012, a break that set off a series of lingering nerve issues that has kept him on the shelf for all but ten games in 2013-14. Ten games is the NBA limit for teams and players to slough off a career under the “medical retirement” cop while knocking a player’s contracts off the salary cap books, which apparently has some of the more heartless and vocal of Laker fans calling into radio talk shows to express disappointment that Nash – “never a Laker,” according to one – has chosen not to decide to walk away from the final year and $9.7 million on his contract in 2014-15.
I understand that we’re running the risk of turning Steve Nash into some sort of basketball deity, or at worse our version of an NBA martyr. But goodness, gracious, sakes alive, if these people think that Steve Nash is “all about the money” at this point … sigh. Don’t listen to sports talk radio callers.
This isn’t the NFL. When you sign a guaranteed NBA contract, as 95 percent of the players do in this league, you get your money. The checks come no matter what, and even if Steve Nash were to call it quits this July, the Lakers would still be able to finagle their insurers and find language that would let Nash receive the full amount of the $9.7 million that is left on his contract following this season. Those who call into radio shows to profess the opposite of this just don’t understand how NBA finances work.
And they certainly don’t understand how Steve Nash works.
Yeah, he wants the money. And yes, if the Los Angeles Lakers release Nash this summer by using the stretch provision to knock about two-thirds of his contract off their salary cap books, Steve Nash will not be re-signing with another team at a minimum salary because of his ardent love for the game of basketball. He will retire.
This is because Steve Nash wants to be around his kids. This is because Steve Nash doesn’t want to latch onto a squad while away from his kids as a novelty, a “win a ring for Steve” limited-minutes add-on to a team chasing down a championship. I understand we’re yelling at talk radio gasbags, here, but do any of these critics understand what it means to have a sense of pride, and a sense of family? The guy doesn’t want to be a bit player, he wants to go out on his own terms, and he wouldn’t mind seeing his daughters off to school every morning before work.
I understand the Laker nation’s hurt. Some 20 months ago, it felt as if the franchise had put together a championship contender behind Nash, Bryant, and Dwight Howard – with Dwight certain to stay past the expiration of his contract in 2013 to lead the team into the post-Kobe era. In spite of the good things the franchise has going for it (good lottery odds in this year’s draft, potential cap space and a possible clean slate if the team decides to decline the last year of Mike D’Antoni’s contract this summer), the time since the summer of 2012 has been filled with heartbreak and loss after loss. This cannot be easy for fans that spent most of the 1980s and 2000s watching their team play deep into summer.
You were gifted the presence of Steve Nash, though, Laker fans. And he broke his leg and somehow you took this personally. That’s cruel, and unfair.
And, should Kobe Bryant fail to fully recover from injury in 2014-15, this has me fearful of what nutbag Laker fans will be saying on the radio next year, as Kobe preps to make $25 million in the final year of his deal.
- - - - - - -