Steve Nash shows he has something left

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
12:29
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Mike D'Antoni's coach-point guard partnership with Steve Nash dates back more than a decade and has netted a Coach of the Year trophy, two league MVP awards and millions and millions of dollars.

It's with that mutual backdrop and a shared sarcastic sense of humor that D'Antoni offered up a zinger when asked about Nash's status last week.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesSteve Nash continues to evaluate his future, but his effort Tuesday against Portland proves he still offers quality performances.
"Day to day … hour to hour," D’Antoni quipped when asked how long it would be before Nash would return to game action.

All jokes aside, the only thing Lakers fans care about when it comes to Nash at this point is what his status will be year to year moving forward.

As in, if Nash is not waived by the Lakers via the stretch provision during the offseason (an unlikely possibility, based on the team wanting full cap flexibility for 2015) and the 40-year-old chooses not to retire (another remote scenario, considering Nash’s intention to collect the $9.7 million owed to him in the final year of his contract), what kind of player will he be in 2014-15?

Less than a month ago, it seemed as if Nash's season already was over. This, in turn, led many fans to call for Nash's career to be over, as well. Now, after his game against Portland and a pretty clean outing against Minnesota last week, is it fair to make the same assumption that he should call it quits?

Nash played for the 13th time in Game No. 74 of the Lakers' season Tuesday, and while his night wasn't perfect -- he rolled his ankle in the first half and had to retreat to the locker room for treatment -- he ended up with his first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and only one turnover (and a block on Portland's Mo Williams, to boot).

"The key for me is if I'm moving well, I know I can play the game at a high level and I felt good tonight," Nash said after the game, speaking to reporters with an electric stimulation machine hooked up to his ankle. "If I'm moving well, good things I think can happen out there."

The performance drew rave reviews from the rest of his team.

"When he's healthy, he's a heck of a point guard and makes great plays and makes things easy for everybody else," Pau Gasol said.

One of those people who it was easier on is Nick Young, who scored a season-high 40 points, with 18 of them coming in the second quarter, when Nash set him up for open look after open look.

"You just got to look out because any given play, he can just find you," Young said. "That's big. He's been big for me, coming off the bench with me. We got our little plays down and I know when he comes my way, I got to be prepared."

And there was Chris Kaman, who sounded in awe of Nash.

"Nash is probably the hardest worker that we have on this team," Kaman said. "He always is a professional and very positive. He stayed positive all year, even when he wasn't able to play. He's battled through a lot of amazing things. And for him to be able to play now I think is special and speaks leaps and bounds about him, about his character and his work ethic.

"He's still a special player. There's not going to be a lot of players that come around like him."

Add it all up and doesn't that sound like a player with something left to prove? Especially considering that he'll have the next six months to try to get his body right for training camp next season?

"I think all four or five of those games when I was moving well [this season], it gives me a lot of optimism that I can still play the game at a good level and it's really a lot of fun to be moving freely out there," Nash said. "As I've said before, the next kind of barometer is whether I can sustain it and, for me, it's important to try to play a little more, evaluate where I am, where my game is, where my health is and what I need to do this summer. We'll see.

"There's a lot of optimism, but obviously I got to build up that capacity to withstand the demands of the game that I really haven't had a chance to do yet."

Even if Nash's ankle feels better Wednesday, he won't play against the Sacramento Kings, as his plan all season has been to sit out one leg of back-to-backs.

That means with Jordan Farmar set to return as soon as next Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, there could only be two games remaining in Nash's season -- Friday against the Dallas Mavericks and Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

After that, he'll fade into the background to let Farmar work on his body of work and help his cause on the free-agency market.

Meanwhile, Nash will work on his actual body.

"He's amazing," D'Antoni said about Nash after the game. "[Next season] is obviously a decision later on for him and Mitch [Kupchak] and everybody and Jim [Buss], but he's amazing.

"I go, 'Well, I guess when you just keel over we'll just cart him off and know that we have to substitute.'"

It will seemingly take something as dramatic as that before Nash will relent to the pressure to finish his career before he knows it's the right time to say goodbye.

"You can see he's got something," D'Antoni said.

Day to day. Hour to hour. Moment to moment. Nash is still living in the game.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0