Steve Nash really is the forgotten man. Mostly because fans simply want to forget him.
The bounty the Lakers surrendered to acquire Nash was scrutinized at the time, but was mostly justified considering the level of play he had exhibited the season before and the prospect of teaming him with Dwight Howard. But after missing the better parts of his two seasons in Los Angeles and limping through many of the games he did appear in, Nash has become a symbol of what has gone wrong with the team. The picks surrendered and his high salary now hang like an iron noose around the franchise’s neck, hurting their ability to rebuild via the draft (if the Lakers’ 2015 pick falls outside the top 5, it goes to the Suns) while also soaking up some of that precious salary cap space needed to chase free agents.
Heading into his last season, then, Nash’s name is met with reactions ranging from apathy to disdain. There used to be a time fans would be counting the minutes to when they would get the chance to see Nash lace up his sneakers for this team. Now, though, many feel that same anticipation for when his contract will be off the books. It’s hard to blame them, of course, but the turn towards negativity for the future hall of famer is still a bit jarring to me. Yes, Nash was always an enemy of sorts, but he was still Steve Nash the #pointgod. If you didn’t enjoy watching Nash play basketball, you probably don’t really like basketball too much. I mean, I can still barely even fathom this:
Steve Nash's 06-07 Shotchart. Welp. http://t.co/zIquZVXrWG
— Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) August 3, 2014
But, that was then and this is now. Relying on Nash to be anything more than a mentor for the younger players on the team and a guy who can, hopefully, impart some of his knowledge of the game onto Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson seems like a stretch. That said, wouldn’t it be nice to see him contribute on the floor too?
While that may be too much to ask, he certainly is going to try. And while no one should get their hopes up, Nash is, seemingly, working his way back into a physical condition good enough where it no longer seems so far fetched that he could actually see the floor this year. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com sat down with Gary Vitti and the long time team trainer had this to say about the embattled point guard:
“All my conversations with (Nash) are that he has absolutely no neural issue at this point,” said Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti. “He’s playing full-tilt, unrestricted soccer. He’s doing all the corrective injury and performance exercises he’s supposed to be doing, and right now he’s 100 percent healthy.”
As Vitti went on to explain, nerve issues typically either “get better really quickly, or they take a long, long period of time.” Since Nash’s nerve issues developed out of the leg fracture on Oct. 31, 2012, and it’s nearly two years later, we can certainly categorize them as the “long” type.
Basically, things look much better for Nash today than they did last summer.
The nerve issues were prevalent in August of 2013, but they’re gone now. Still, there’s a big difference between his feeling good today and his body being able to handle the NBA training camp and subsequent regular season grind.
“Does (no nerve pain) translate into putting on an NBA uniform and getting out there with these guys in a point guard dominated league on hardwood, not a grass soccer field,” asked Vitti. “I don’t think anybody knows, and nobody wants to know more than Steve. He really wants to play, and he’s committed himself to do whatever it is to play. If he can’t, we’ll have to address that when the time comes.”
If you followed Nash’s situation at all last year, you would know that “no neural issue” and being able to go “full-tilt” at anything is major progress. Enough to get me excited? No. Too much has gone wrong over the past two seasons to get excited about Steve Nash’s health prospects. And as Vitti explains, playing soccer on a grass field during the summer does not equate to playing NBA level basketball on a hardwood during the season. But this news is somewhat encouraging.
The Lakers enter this season with expectations as low as I can ever remember. They are a team in transition with question marks at every turn. Internally, however, they hope to surprise people with a roster that they feel can compete. It would be nice if, unlikely as it is, in what is almost certainly his final season, that the surprises start with Steve Nash and that the man most fans want to forget gives them one last season to remember.