Steve Nash is not the same. He is a limping, pained shell of his former self. Nash has made just over one-quarter of his field goal attempts so far during the 2013-14 season, his defense is as bad as it’s ever been, and the two-time MVP doesn’t appear to have anywhere close to the bounce and rhythm that he contributed last season – and last year was supposed to be the injury-plagued year.
Even after a summer off, Nash is worse. Far worse. And after missing all three of his shots from the floor in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game that saw him sit the entire second half, Nash spoke candidly and openly about the nerve pain that is causing his miserable play. From Melissa Rohlin at the Los Angeles Times:
"I hesitate to even talk about it now because it's probably not a good time, I'm feeling a little emotional, but it's hard," Nash said. "I really want to play and I really want to play the way I'm accustomed to playing, and to be so limited is frustrating. And also to not know where a clean-ish bill of health is is a little daunting too."
"It gets really confusing," he said. "I have obviously back issues. It's nerves coming from my back. You could call it the back, you could call it the nerves, the pain in the hamstring, it's all the same thing. It gets a little convoluted."
"I'm trying to play through it, but at the same time be smart and overcome what I can," he said. "But it's taken a bit of a turn for the worse, and I'm just going to see the [doctor] tomorrow and see what he advises."
As Nash disclosed, the nerve issues that are denying him a clean bill of health stem from a fibula fracture he suffered in November of 2012. Even a full year’s recovery hasn’t pushed him back to one hundred percent, and his play in 2013-14 is sadly telling. Nash isn’t playing on the second half of back to backs, he lies on the sidelines for long stretches of bench time, he hasn’t made more than 40 percent of his shots in a game this season, and the Lakers’ 28th-ranked offense is in the toilet. Not good news for a Los Angeles team that was built to play offense-first, defense-never.
Nash has two years left on his contract, and he’s a competitor that likely wants to end things the right way, so you’re not going to see Steve cobble together a retirement ceremony any time soon. The Lakers, when fully healthy, still have an outside shot after gunning for a lower run playoff berth; and though the team has lost five out of eight games thus far, there’s still time to get this right.
If Nash is still feeling the aftereffects from an injury suffered 12 months ago, significant though that injury may be, this is going to be hard to warm over. As Nash relayed, the nerve pain tends to clutch at several places in his body, and the NBA’s oldest player can’t afford to be limited while battling with opponents that were born the year of Nash’s first season at Santa Clara.
Frankly, and sadly, you get the feeling Nash isn’t long for this game just by watching him. His averages of 6.7 points and 4.8 assists per game seem almost blown out of proportion in relation to how he looks from afar. Nash has never been one to fully blame injuries, even dating back to his rough first two seasons in Dallas after the Mavericks traded for him, so for Steve to be so open and honest with his physical frustrations … it’s saying something.
Perhaps a few weeks off, with teammate Kobe Bryant still recovering from his Achilles tear, could be the solution. The Lakers can’t afford to take games off, not while shooting for .500 and that eighth seed out West, but it’s not as if Nash is helping them at this point. He’s hurting the team more often than not.
Which is just so incredibly sad.
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