Last month, the Los Angeles Lakers and starting point guard Steve Nash made the smart decision to quit putzing around with Nash’s combined ankle, back and nerve injuries. They both decided to shut the future Hall of Famer down until he was healthy enough to rejoin the team for the long haul, and not for fitful bits and pieces of play here and there, interrupted by long stints on the bench and days off from practices and/or games.
Tuesday will mark the one-month anniversary of Nash’s last game with the team, and though fellow 30-something (for now for Steve, at least) Kobe Bryant returned to the lineup on Sunday, don’t expect Nash to hobble back in any time soon. Bryant’s Achilles tear could have been a career-killer, but at least Kobe had the benefit of orthodoxy on his side with his tear – you undergo surgery, it heals, you rehabilitate, you slowly work your way back like several other NBA players have in the past.
Nash’s combined back/ankle/nerve/femur frustrations are a little different. Toss in his age (39, for two more months) and years’ worth of long playoff trips, and you have a player that has no real historical influence to allow for a timetable for his unique situation. This is why Steve isn’t rushing back any time soon. From Mike Bresnahan at the Los Angeles Times:
"I don't know," the injury-riddled point guard said several hours before Kobe Bryant played against Toronto.
"I had three good days of practice and I could play right now, but we don't really have any confidence that it's sustainable. Instead of playing, missing a few weeks, playing, missing a few weeks … try to get to a place where I could play and sustain it. We don't know when that is right now."
As you’ll recall, though Nash has struggled with ankle and back injuries dating back to the Clinton Administration, this recent setback stemmed from a fractured leg suffered early in the Lakers’ (legally required to call it) ill-fated 2012-13 season. There’s no definitive proof that rest and rehab will eventually get the guy back to a position where he could peel off a healthy end to the season, which is ultra-depressing.
Nash took an epidural two weeks ago, but admits that even that procedure is far from a panacea. From the Times:
"I don't know that those really help that much," he said. "I had two in the playoffs last year and they help, they take some of the sting out of it, but I can't get over the hump with an epidural."
The two-time MVP is the NBA’s oldest player, which is concerning, but while the Lakers are still reeling from the loss of Jordan Farmar, the team should be able to get away with playing without Steve for an extended period of time.
Replete with swingman scorers, even if things go pear-shaped every so often, the Lakers could turn to Bryant as more of a facilitator as he attempts to return to form – something that Kobe seemed just fine with in his first game back on Sunday, even if his teammates weren’t ready for some of his pinpoint passes. Toss in reserve point guard Steve Blake and the fact that the Lakers (at 10-9 entering Sunday night) circled the wagons admirably, and you have a team that could keep their head at water level for a while.
Any stretch of time would help, because Nash’s insistence on only coming back when he’s ready to come back for good is the correct approach. Partially because Nash doesn’t want to retire and walk away from the two years and $19 million (including this season) left on his contract, but mostly because Steve Nash wants another chance at being able to play Steve Nash-styled basketball.
Which we applaud. Because nobody is ready to stop watching Steve Nash play basketball.
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