Steve Nash is not playing on the second night of back-to-backs, he’s playing limited minutes, and he’s shooting 29 percent from the field over the first three games of his 2013-14 season. The NBA’s oldest player has not looked particularly spry in the first week of his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers, and on Monday he revealed why.
The 2005 and 2006 NBA MVP is still suffering from nerve damaged that was caused by the leg fracture he developed early in the 2012-13 season.
Still. Argh. From Eric Pincus at the Los Angeles Times:
"I'm still fighting things that happened because of the broken leg," Nash said. "I still feel that almost every day, all over. It's not just in that spot. The whole system in a way is different now, it's just a little bit more sensitive."
Nash had his best game of the season Sunday night in the Lakers' 105-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks, with 13 points and six assists in a season-high 29 minutes. He said he's "extremely optimistic" that he'll be a steady contributor this season.
"If last night's an indication, if I can get up another level or two, I can be pretty effective," he said.
Nash broke the leg in the second game of a 2012-13 season that, you’ll recall, cost the Lakers a chance to hold onto Dwight Howard with a long term deal, cost the team two head coaches and possibly a chance at Phil Jackson’s return to coaching, and cost the franchise a healthy Kobe Bryant. It was a disaster all around, and with Bryant still out for an undetermined amount of time, Howard actually handling things tactfully while in Houston, and Nash still limping, the aftereffects of that miserable term are still lingering.
And if Nash is still feeling pain one year after the fracture? This is not good.
You almost wish the Lakers could deal Nash back to the Phoenix Suns, they of the universally lauded medical and training staff, in order to help their former star get right. Nash is a competitor, and he’s not going to leave money on the table by walking away from the last two years of his contract, so it appears certain that we’ll have to see Steve have to grind his way back to full health (assuming such a thing is possible at age 39) in full public view.
To Nash’s credit, this isn’t the first time his health has been in doubt.
Steve struggled with myriad back, heel and ankle injuries during his first two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. So much so that the Mavericks went out to sign former Utah Jazz point guard Howard Eisley to fight Nash for the starting point guard slot prior to the 2000-01 season. Nash returned to full health for that campaign, blossoming into an All-Star and leading the Mavericks to their first playoff appearance in over a decade.
Nash became a free agent in the summer of 2004, and new Suns owner Robert Sarver, flush with cash, decided to go all-in on the ex-Sun that got away. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in what was probably the sound move at the time, declined to match Sarver’s offer for the 30-year old point guard, and Steve reluctantly went back to Phoenix. Out of nowhere, two MVP seasons resulted.
Still, Cuban’s passing happened nine years ago. Nash turns 40 in the middle of 2013-14, and the modern NBA game isn’t getting any slower.
Here’s hoping Nash manages to quiet the doubters yet again, and give us at least a glimpse of what made him such a special player in the first place. Because it’s not quite right to see a legend working at half-speed.