LOS ANGELES — Sometimes it makes you wonder what it could have been like if Steve Nash was healthy as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tuesday night was a perfect example as Nash in 22 minutes on the floor was remarkable as he notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists to go along with four rebounds in the 124-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a type of performance that saw him play well even through a left ankle injury that occurred in the first half.
“The key for me is if I am moving well,” Nash said, after appearing in just his 13th game of the season. “I know that I can play at a high level. I felt good tonight and unfortunately I turned my ankle, but I was able to keep it going. It was a lot of fun and I felt like I really helped my teammates.”.
This was a game that displayed that Nash still has the capability to be a very effective player, if he remains healthy. Before his previous setback that he suffered when he bumped knees with Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich on Feb. 9 that exacerbated the nerve irritation once again, he had a 19-point and 5-assist effort against the Philadelphia 76ers, and a nine-point and seven-assist night against the Minnesota Timberwolves without experiencing any physical problems.
It is his ability to still performing at a high level that keeps the 40-year-old motivated to continue to play despite his lingering nerve irritation issues in his back and left leg.
“I think all four or five of those games when I was moving well, 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.”
Since joining the Lakers in July of 2012, it has been nothing but an injury-plagued road for Nash after he broke his leg in the second game of the 2012-13 season as it lead to him missing 32 games that season due to his leg injury and the nerve damage that has subsequently followed him ever since as he only appeared in just 13 games this season with eight more to play.
But through it all Nash has kept at it and worked hard toward returning to the court this entire season, which something that his teammate Chris Kaman has seen and has a true appreciation for the 19-year veteran’s dedication to the game despite the injuries.
“Nash is probably the hardest worker we have on this team,” Kaman said. “He is a professional and is very positive. He stayed positive all year even when he wasn’t able to play. He has battled through a lot and come to play now is special and speaks leaps and bounds about him. There won’t be a lot of players that come around that are like him.”
Nick Young, who scored a season-high 40 points in Tuesday’s loss, expressed his enjoyment being able to play alongside a player of Nash’s caliber on the court.
“He is a big-time player,” Young said. “You just got to look out because any given play, he can just find you. 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.”
As for head coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in his six season coaching Nash, is still in amazement over the his point guard’s wherewithal to keep pushing through and still be able perform at a high level when he is on the court.
“He is amazing,”D’Antoni said. “It’s funny when he is out there he’s playing well and I said, ‘Are you okay? Can we keep asking a lot?” He turned his ankle and he said, my ankle, I don’t know about saying anything it just swells up at halftime and I go, well I guess when you just keel over we’ll just cart him off and then we’ll have to substitute. It’s hard to have a feel, but what’d he play 18 minutes, 10 assists, one turnover? You can see he’s got something.”
But with said, D’Antoni also realizes that Nash’s continued fight is against an opponent who has never lost, and that is father time.
“He just plays smart and has done this in his sleep for 17 years or however long that he has played,” D’Antoni said. “He is just a very very good basketball player who is battling father time. That is a pretty good opponent.”
The window for Nash’s playing days may be quickly closing, but one thing is for certain; He is going to give it everything that he has got until then.
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Watch below Nash’s impressive made shot after getting fouled against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday:
Bob Garcia IV
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