Kobe Bryant Steve Nash
The Lakers have been without both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash for 12 games this season. Reuters

The Los Angeles Lakers have a 9-9 record through 18 games of the 2013-2014 NBA season. Despite a rash of injuries to their top stars, the club has managed to stay competitive.

Kobe Bryant has been inactive for the entire season. After the shooting guard had surgery in April to repair his torn Achilles, there was speculation that he might only miss a few games. That hasn’t turned out to be the case, though, as he didn’t play at all in the first month.

Following weeks of practices, Bryant appears to be nearing a return to the court. On Sunday, L.A. lost to the Portland Trail Blazers when they were almost able to erase a 20-point fourth quarter deficit. With four consecutive days off until their next game, there’s a chance Los Angeles won’t be without Bryant any longer. According to ESPN Los Angeles, Bryant has not been ruled out for the Lakers game against the Sacramento Kings on Friday. A week ago, it was reported that the future Hall of Famer might not come back until the end of 2013. However, head coach Mike D’Antoni says the team will evaluate Bryant this week and see where stands for their next contest.

Steve Nash was injured for a large portion of his first season with Los Angeles, and has missed most of this season. A lingering nerve issue in his back and hamstring issues have caused him to miss two-thirds on the team’s games. The injuries differed from the fractured leg that forced him to sit out all of November and most of December in 2012.

Nash’s age and recent physical problems have sparked rumors that he could be forced to call it quits. The point guard has the option of filing for medical retirement, if it is determined that his back ailment won’t allow him to play. Doing so would let him claim the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2015. Nash, though, said he isn’t ready to end his career just yet.

“Not at all,” Nash responded when asked if he was thinking about retirement. “I don't know where that came from. For me, I realize I have about 18 months left of basketball. I want the most out of this that I can possibly get. I don't know if that's going to be one game or the vast majority of what's left.”

Unlike Bryant and Nash, Pau Gasol has been healthy enough to play the entire season. That could be changing with the big man set to undergo an MRI on Monday. His sprained ankle forced him to sit out practice on Saturday, but he did play against Portland on Sunday.

The injury seemed to affect Gasol, who missed 12 of his 15 shot attempts. When the Lakers mounted their comeback late in the game, the veteran watched from the bench. Robert Sacre played at center in the fourth quarter in Gasol’s place.

This season, Gasol is averaging 14.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. His 25 minutes against the Trail Blazers were a low for this season.