Archives For Steve Nash

ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin first tweeted out the news that has seemed growingly inevitable as the season wears on- more likely than not, Steve Nash has played his last game this season.

There’s no other way to describe this news other than plain old sad. Nash has worked his tail off to get back to form this season and make due on that increasingly unexplainable contract that pays him upwards of $9 million per season. But when you’re body simply won’t cooperate, there’s nothing you can do.

I was one of the millions of Laker fans who was ecstatic when the news broke on July 4th, 2012 that the team had acquired the two-time MVP. Never in a million years did I expect Nash to function more as a cap-clogger than anything productive on the floor. It’s now a legitimate possibility that the Lakers use the stretch provision on Nash, would could end the future hall-of famers career. By exercising this provision, the Lakers would release Nash and his cap figure would be spread across three years, allowing the Lakers added flexibility to chase free agents.

If Nash has indeed played his last game in purple and gold, his final game tally in two years would be 60. Not what the Lakers had in mind.

Kobe’s in a similar position in the sense of not knowing whether he’ll suit up for another game this year. He’s still weeks away from an evaluation, and if he’s cleared to play then, he’d likely have to have at least a bit of practice time to get him back into game shape. And judging from the 4 games he played in his return from the achilles injury, he wouldn’t be his usual self- at least not at first- when he does make it back onto the court.

All of this injury news bodes well for those Laker fans aboard Team Tank. The Lakers enjoyed probably their best win of the season last night in snapping Portland’s five-game win streak. In Portland. The win was so surprising that it prompted this headline from the LA Times: “Lakers beat Trail Blazers…in Portland…really!” But despite this, and the win over Sacramento where the Lakers caught fiiiiire from three, the upcoming schedule remains brutal- six out of the next eight games are against teams above .500, including two each against the Thunder and Spurs (who are absolutely incredible. Nothing less. Each and every year I count them out, figuring Father Time will eventually prevail. Those who believe the age-old adage that Father Time is undefeated doesn’t know that Gregg Popovich exists. Okay, Spurs rant over).

Without Kobe and Nash for the foreseeable future, the Lakers should return to their losing ways in the next couple weeks. Of the remaining 22 games, 15 come against teams above .500. If you’re rooting for losses, things are working out quite nicely for you- the Lakers’ remaining schedule is brutal and they will be without the production of both Kobe and Nash, however limited that production might be, when they go toe-to-toe with these superior teams.

This has, undoubtedly, been the most difficult season of Steve Nash’s hall of fame career. The nerve root irritation stemming from the broken leg he suffered last season has dragged into this season, making him unavailable for all but 10 games this season. He’s tried multiple treatments, taken leave from the team to train with his personal trainer in his native Vancouver, and has worked as hard as he ever has to try and return this year and be a part of this team.

Grantland gives us an inside, behind the scenes look at what very well could be Nash’s last season with their documentary series “The Finish Line”. The first episode premiered two weeks ago while episode two just came out yesterday. Both videos are below.

One thing that instantly stands out to me is Nash’s love for the game, his dedication to try and return, and his frustration at what his body is allowing him to do as he tries to work through his physical limitations. He is constantly battling the reality of what he wants to be able to do and what he can actually do. The love is there, the drive is there, and the work ethic — legendary in a way that is similar to what we’ve seen from Kobe — is certainly there too. What’s also there is the genuine good feelings between him and his teammates and the general feeling that everyone simply wants Nash to be able to do finish up his career on his own terms.

For me, these clips simply reinforce that Nash truly is one of the good guys and a guy that you want to root for. Fandom can often be complicated. It can be hard to balance personal rooting interests for individual players you want to see do well against what is best for the team and do it all against the backdrop of what is, in essence, grown men being paid a lot of money to play a child’s game. We see this in these videos about Nash and it makes for great theatre.

Enjoy episodes one and two of Grantland’s The Finish Line. They’re well worth your time.

Steve Nash couldn’t finish Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves after experiencing pain in his back. When the 2nd half started, Nash remained in the locker room and after the game he said he would see a back specialist to get more information.

Well, the news is back and it doesn’t sound promising:

As Dave McMenamin mentions, Nash treated his back issues with an epidural during last year’s playoffs and it really didn’t help. It relieved his pain in the short term, but did not allow him to get on the floor to play in the games.

The fact that Nash is still experiencing issues with his back is a major concern. The fact that it’s nerve “irritation” is even more concerning since the timeline given comes along with the caveat of “a minimum of” and “will be reevaluated in 10 days” rather than a standard timetable of “out X days/weeks” and that’s that. The fact is the Lakers went through a similar issue with Nash last season when he broke his leg only to have nerve irritation throw his recovery timeline into a permanent fog.

If you recall, after Nash broke his leg, he was listed as being out for roughly two weeks, then was listed as day to day, only to have that regress to out indefinitely as the nerve problems kept bothering him. When Nash finally was cleared to play he clearly was not 100% and seemed to only come back to try and help the team when they were making their push for the playoffs.

That strategy did little for his long term health, however, as the rest of his body started to cause him problems as he (likely) had to overcompensate for his bad leg. Hip and hamstring issues developed and ultimately that caused his back to flare up. Back issues that, apparently, remain today even after a summer of rest and then training to build up his strength.

At this point, I wouldn’t bet on Nash being back in two weeks. Kevin Ding tweeted that these nerve irritation issues can last up to two months and considering Nash’s age and the fact that these issues have been persisting for some time doesn’t make for an ideal healing situation. And while I don’t want to speculate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Nash is out for a long time or that he ends up coming back on a timeline that’s relatively short (say 2-4 weeks) only to end up having more issues that put him on the injured list later in the season for the same reason.

In any event, the Lakers must now move on without Nash and that will mean more time for Steve Blake at point guard, more time for Jodie Meeks at shooting guard, and more time for Jordan Farmar since he’ll move to the primary back up for Blake as the lead guard. In a normal year this would be seen as a disaster as Nash would be considered the best of those four players. This year, however, Nash has been the least productive of the foursome and his absence should allow the Lakers to find more stability in their backcourt while also putting the team’s most productive guards on the floor for longer stretches.

As an aside, typing that paragraph is probably one of the saddest things I’ve ever written. The Lakers traded for Nash two summers ago and saw him as a player who could elevate the point guard position while helping the team contend for a title. After all, Nash was (is, actually) a hall of fame player who was still putting up very good numbers in Phoenix. What’s transpired, though, is Nash dealing with injury after injury and falling to a level that is unrecognizable for any fan who’s watched his career to this point. You always want players to age gracefully and to be able to go out on their own terms. Instead, Nash seems to be falling apart before our eyes. And, really, there’s nothing sadder than that.

The Other Star Guard

Darius Soriano —  May 27, 2013

So much of the Lakers’ off-season has focused on unknowns.

What will Dwight Howard decide? When will Kobe return and, when he does, what type of player will he be? Will Pau Gasol still be on the team? If so, how will his role change? If not, what will he net in a trade?

Due to their importance as centerpiece players on the Lakers’ roster, these are natural questions. However, one player whose name hasn’t much come up when talking about the transition to next season is Steve Nash.

Nash was added nearly a year ago, seemingly out of nowhere. At the time, there were questions about how Nash would fit next to Kobe, how much he had left as a player, and how the team would compensate for him defensively. But even with those questions, his signing was almost universally hailed as a win for the Lakers.

What transpired wasn’t the win that many imagined it would be. In the 2nd game of the year Nash broke his leg, ultimately starting a season of regretful injuries and lost chemistry that served as the dark cloud over his inaugural campaign as a Laker. Further, when he was healthy enough to suit up, he had to adjust to a shifting role that took him off the ball more, becoming more of a spot up shooter when Kobe handled the ball and a diligent screener when Pau facilitated from the elbow.

When he did have the ball in his hands, Nash showed more and more of his 39 years, lacking that extra burst to shake free from defenders or turn the corner out of his favored pick and roll set. This made it harder to escape hard traps defenses threw at him and harder for him to create the separation that he typically uses to do damage in isolation.

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I’ve long struggled with the idea of “crunch time”. At times I’ve felt the definition used to describe this part of the game — the last 5 minutes of a game with a margin of 5 points or fewer — is a bit arbitrary. This feeling is compounded by the fact that I’m a firm believer that all parts of the game are important. A contest can be lost in the first quarter by surrendering a big lead through sloppy defense and turnover prone offense as much as it can be lost at the end of the game through the same type of poor play.

That said, it can not be ignored that the end of a close game feels different and, thus, creates a different environment in which the players compete. Defense tightens up and offensive players have a more difficult time scoring in general. The seconds seem to tick down slower and every possession takes on a greater importance. This often leads to the types of pressure packed plays that either build or destroy legends. Bring up the words “clutch” “Michael Jordan” and “Nick Anderson” in the same sentence and someone will surely say the word “choke” within a fraction of a second.

As fans we too take this part of the game more seriously and tend to heap praises on the heroes who can summon the skill needed to thrive at this time of the game. Forget analysis in the closing seconds, we love a guy hitting the big shot and then screaming at the top of our lungs in celebration. These are the most memorable moments.

The problem is, though, is that it’s never smart to forget the analysis. It’s better to know what actually happened and how a team got to the point where it made (or missed) those final shots that we think decided the game. It’s better to know what trends to expect from a team or player at any part of the game, but especially one that’s close late. This makes us better fans, even if in the moment most of us — or at least those of us with rooting interests — only really care if the shot falls or not.

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