Steve Nash wishes he could turn back the hands of time and have a do-over on this season. Nothing has gone right for the Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard.
In his second game as a Laker, Nash suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left leg following a violent collision with Portland rookie Damian Lillard. It has been all downhill from there for the 16-year veteran and two-time MVP.
After the Oct. 31 injury against Portland, Nash didn’t return until Dec. 22 against the Golden State Warriors. Nash then injured his right hamstring March 30 against the Sacramento Kings, forcing him to miss the final eight games of the regular season.
“It’s been a tough year,” Nash said after Monday’s practice at Texas Military Institute. “I haven’t missed many games in my career, and I think what’s frustrating is just how it happened.
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“I obviously broke my leg at the start of the year and it really took me until a couple of months ago to start to figure out how I could fit into this team, and to get healthy, because you’re seven weeks off and then two practices and then playing, you never quite get that feeling back. It’s frustrating that I finally started to feel a place within the mix and healthy, and then this.”
Nash, who as a Dallas Mavericks point guard in 1998-2004 helped turn around the franchise, was only on the court for two minutes against the Kings. He didn’t play again until Game 1 of the opening-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs this past Sunday. Nash played 29 minutes, was 6 of 15 from the field and finished with 16 points and three assists in the Lakers’ 91-79 loss to the Spurs.
When the Lakers play the Spurs in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the AT&T Center, Nash said he will again be in the starting lineup.
“He’s someone we’re going to have to have,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Obviously he can play better.
“He has been the MVP twice, so we’ve all seen that. We’re not going to do it without him.”
Last week Nash received some epidural injections to help alleviate a nerve issue that caused pain and a sore hip, and some weakness in his hamstring. The injuries, Nash said, never had him considering retirement.
“When I was healthy this year I felt pretty good,” the 39-year-old Nash said. “I think still, for the amount of opportunities I got on this team, I still was just as efficient as I’ve always been.
“As far as how I felt and my ability, once I got my legs back under me after breaking my leg, I felt as good as ever and I still feel pretty optimistic I’ll feel that way next year.”
Nash signed a three-year, $27 million contract last summer and averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists and 32.5 minutes in 50 games this season. The games were the fewest he’s ever played in a non-lockout season.
“I just see him battling through some physical ailments that he has and not having the explosive stuff that he has,” D’Antoni said. “But he’s always a threat on the perimeter, he’s always that shooter we have to have out there to open up space for [Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol].”
But for Nash to open that space, his wheels need to be solid. And right now, he’s far from 100 percent.
“I think a lot of my problems that I’m facing now had a lot of contributions from breaking my leg early and never really getting a chance to get in great shape again,” Nash said. “I think any time you change environments — and we had a lot of guys change environments — it takes time to come together.
“And with all the injuries that prolong that time, we’ve all fought and fought and fought, and have not gotten a lot of joy out of it. That’s why I’m still thrilled to get a chance to play in this series, thrilled to try and fight for my teammates and to try to make something good happen out of all this.”