What seemed like a frightening inevitability earlier in 2014, thankfully, never came to fruition. The Los Angeles Lakers have let the stretch provision deadline pass on Steve Nash’s contract, ensuring that the future Hall of Famer will not have to retire in the face of having to relocate his family in order to join another NBA team.
The Lakers did not announce the non-move so as not to embarrass either party, the team merely let the deadline pass over the weekend. Nash is owed $9.7 million in the final year of a sign-and-trade deal he agreed to in the summer of 2012, and he’s missed 99 out of a possibly 164 games as a Los Angeles Laker, suffering from a variety of crippling leg, back and nerve issues.
When it became apparent that the Lakers interest in the provision was a reality, Nash discussed the possibilities in a borderline-harrowing (as far as sports go) video from last winter:
The summation was simple. If the Lakers waived Nash, he would be loath to pack up his family and suit up for another team. Though Nash wanted to play in 2014-15, a release from the Lakers would effectively force him into retirement.
And though the last two years have been tough, nobody wants to see that.
Save for some Laker fans, of course, that wanted Nash’s contract completely off the books (a retirement would allow for that) as the team attempted to rebuild around Kobe Bryant’s whopper of a contract. Using the stretch provision would act as an unholy compromise of the two, as the Lakers would be on the books for Nash’s guaranteed money, but they’d be allowed to divide his deal into three yearly parts, saving the team nearly $6.5 million in potential cap space for the free agent summer of 2014.
Late in 2013-14, however, it became apparent that the Lakers were leaning toward keeping Nash and his contract for this season, effectively taking them out of the free agent race before it even began. With Bryant’s contract, various cap holds, Kobe’s long-stated preference that Pau Gasol be offered a contract to remain in Los Angeles (one he eventually turned down), and a high end lottery pick salary slated to be on the books alongside Nash, the Lakers were never really players in the market.
When July came and went and the Lakers were left with a re-signed Nick Young and Carlos Boozer to their, um, credit, that assumption played out in reality.
The Lakers were never really going to be major players this summer, though, they knew as much the minute Kobe Bryant put pen to paper. What is certain is that, even with Bryant on board for what is likely one final season in 2015-16, the team will have cap flexibility moving forward in the 2015 and 2016 offseasons, and even a reduced portion of Nash’s stretched-out salary (just over $3.23 million) could still get in the way of another shot at attempting to sign help.
This is why Nash is around for one more year. The Lakers are still paying the sins for the 2012 offseason, one that had the rest of the NBA red with anger as they acquired Dwight Howard and put together an on-paper backcourt for the ages. They’re also paying, literally, for the basketball sin of choosing personal over pragmatic reasons in extending Bryant to such an outsized rate. Their money, not ours.
Nash was always going to get his money, and now he’ll get one last chance at going out on his terms. If anything, we should be thanking the Lakers for that.
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