When the Los Angeles Lakers received future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade during the 2012 offseason, fans expected to see the same type of floor general that their team faced in the 2009-10 Western Conference Finals.
It has been far from that in the last two seasons.
Since wearing the purple and gold, Steve Nash has averaged just 9.7 points and 5.7 assists per game. Last season marked the first time since 1999-2000 that Nash’s scoring and assists statistics have been as low.
With that said, these aren’t even the most disappointing results the Lakers have received from Nash. Of the 94 regular season games Los Angeles has played since acquiring Nash, he has only played in 56. That’s 38 games Nash has missed due to injuries, which are hampering his career (or what’s left of a career) more than ever.
Last season was the story of the fractured leg he sustained in a collision with Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. He eventually returned before Christmas, but was never 100 percent healthy due to the lingering effects he felt throughout the year. This season, it’s becoming quite a few different concerns.
To start the 2013-14 season, Nash began experiencing problems in his left ankle, an area that he claimed was bothering him before training camp was even underway. Flash forward two weeks, and now his back is giving him nerve irritation problems.
Nash feels that it’s tough knowing he’s such an important component in the Lakers’ success and he’s not being able to be on the floor contributing. Last week, he addressed the issue and possibility of playing through any pain:
“That’s one of the reasons that I’ve come out (of the game) a few times this year, because I’m not able to get it done or produce so it’s not worth being out there,” Nash told the media after practice last week.
After receiving a back exam on November 11th, Nash was scheduled to only miss two weeks in order for his back to heal properly. It wasn’t until this past Tuesday, Nov. 19th, that speculation arose concerning Nash and a potential decision to medically retire. New York sports columnist Peter Vecsey claimed that Nash was indeed entertaining the idea:
I'm hearing Nash's pain is forcing him 2 seriously consider calling it a career. He'd still get $ this yr & next & LA'd get cap relief next
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) November 19, 2013
According to Nash, who will be turning 40 years old in February, there is absolutely no way he is considering hanging up the jersey just yet. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reported that the thought hasn’t crossed his mind once:
“No, Not at all,” Nash stated when asked if this would cause him to retire. “I don’t know where that came from. For me, I realize I have about 18 months left of basketball.”
The underlying question becomes: Is this good or bad news for the Lakers, their fans, and their chances to compete in the Western Conference?
It’s a tough call. A crucial factor comes into play with this discussion: Age and Athleticism
It’s no secret anymore that winning in the Western Conference requires athleticism in the backcourt, typically with a point guard that is quick and capable of being a prime time scorer. The Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, and even the Denver Nuggets possess those abilities. Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Mike Conley Jr., Tony Parker, and Ty Lawson are point guards that allow their teams to compete in an enduring playoff series, something the Lakers aren’t going to be able to do with Nash as the starting point guard cracking the age of 40. It’s just the reality of the NBA, and the main reason why General Manager Mitch Kupchak SHOULD be on the phones trying to obtain a better fitting point guard for Mike D’Antoni‘s fast-paced offense.