If Mike D'Antoni is correct, we may have very well seen the last of Steve Nash as an active NBA player.
Today after morning shootaround, the Lakers head coach was asked if he expected his former All-Star point guard to make a return this season. To that, D'Antoni replied:
"I doubt it," D'Antoni said after the Lakers' shootaround Monday when asked if Nash would play again this season with 23 games remaining, starting with the Trail Blazers on Monday night. "I don't think so. What's the end game? 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."
If indeed MDA's assertion is right, then Nash could see his 17 year career end with a fizzle rather than a victorious explosion. The point guard will potentially finish up with just 10 games played this season and statistical career lows almost across the board.
As it's been a lingering question around the Lakers in this lost season, D'Antoni's admission today isn't particularly surprising. The sordid truth is that Nash has been rehabbing an injury that kept him out of half of last season's games for almost a year and a half now with mixed results that have left him a shell of the player he used to be. He's been quoted many times as openly admitting how difficult rehab has been and the disparity of time spent getting healthy to the paltry amount of games in which he could remain on the floor without being hurt. With or without the question today, there's little doubt amongst most observers that this would be Nash's last season.
In terms of LA's future obligations to him, the team owes him over $9 million this year and $9.7 next season, which the team would likely have to eat rather than using the stretch provision that would parse out the cap hit over three years. As many have discussed, a medical retirement would have been possible with under 10 games played this year and a doctor's corroboration that indeed Nash could not remain an active player. This of course would have taken his cap figure off of next year's salary sheet. It's an unfortunate reality for the Lakers, who now will most likely won't be able to grab maximum-level free agent cap room without relinquishing the rights to nearly all of their free agents (more than 2/3 of their current roster). This will make this summer's pitches to LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony more futile than they were in the first place.
If D'Antoni is accurate, it's a sad end to the career of one of the game's great competitors, a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the greatest point guards ever to live. Lakers fans never really got to see the same player that terrorized them for years in Phoenix, a costly personnel move that's not only hamstrung the team financially, but also in the draft picks sent away in order to acquire him. It's truly unfortunate that Nash's legacy in LA will not be as great as the career he may have just finished up.
More on this story as it develops.
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