Steve Nash’s time with the Los Angeles Lakers has not gone as planned. Since the start of last season, he’s played in just 60 games, and L.A. may have to wait until next year to see him on the court again.
The 2013-2014 season could be over for Nash, who hasn’t played since Feb. 11. According to head coach Mike D’Antoni, it’s doubtful that Nash will return before the offseason.
“What's the end game?” D’Antoni said on Monday. “We've talked about it. He's not completely healthy. We have 23 games left. We're not going to make the playoffs. So what's his objective into taking minutes away from the young guys that we're trying to develop? That's kind of the theme that we're talking about."
The 40-year-old has battled a number of injuries in his time with L.A. Just two games into his Lakers career, Nash fractured his left leg. This season, that ailment has him on the bench again, after he collided with Kirk Hinrich and re-injured the leg. Nash has also dealt with neck, back, and hamstring issues.
Nash hasn’t closed the door on making a return this year, though he says he’d like to play if he gets the chance. No matter what happens, the veteran will likely be on the Lakers in 2014-2015. He’s set to make $9.7 million in the final year of his contract.
The Lakers do have the option of using the stretch provision from the new CBA, which would allow the organization to waive Nash and spread his contract over three seasons. Nash will likely be back, though, considering his expiring contract could be an asset at the trade deadline, and the Lakers will already have enough money to sign a high-profile free agent.
When he’s healthy, Nash can still be a productive player. In the contest before he hurt his leg, he scored 19 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, making eight of his 15 field goal attempts. However, the team is tied for the worst record in the Western Conference, giving them little incentive to trot him back on the court this year.
As the Lakers head towards 50-plus losses and a high draft pick, their top priority is preparing for next season. The team will have to decide if they want to keep a few of their young players, and they’d like them to get playing time over Nash, who’s still under contract.
In Nash’s absence, Kendall Marshall has done the best job of filling in at point guard. After failing to be a presence with the Phoenix Suns, the North Carolina product has thrived in D’Antoni’s system. He’s averaging 9.1 points and 9.4 steals in 32 games. He’s registered at least 10 assists on 17 occasions. At 22 years old, Marshall could end up being a long-term player for Los Angeles.
The Lakers have many decisions to make this offseason, aside from point guard. Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, and others are not under contract for next season.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant is also unlikely to return this season. An injury has kept him sidelined since Dec. 17.