There has been an increasing clamor, rising steadily as the Los Angeles Lakers' season rolls on, for Steve Nash to return to the team as a sort of player- assistant coach combo. Lakers coach Byron Scott has led the calls, mentioning a few times how much he would like Nash to be around as a mentor to young guards Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson. To be fair, Scott hasn't been pushy in these requests. It's sounded more like an honest wish for Nash to be around than some media campaign to pressure him back to the team.
The thing is, Nash was declared out for the season by the Lakers' medical staff. The two-time league MVP is being forced to really, truly come to terms with the fact that he will never play professional basketball again. So in addition to the physical pain he is ailing, Nash also has to deal with the mental pain of losing a job he was as passionate about as anyone ever is regarding their chosen profession.
By all accounts, Nash was one of the best teammates the NBA has ever had, forming lasting relationships with innumerable people around the league. As someone who clearly and admittedly loved the camaraderie of the locker room, the specter of retirement has to be devastating. Being a part of a team, as anyone who played sports knows, is to build totally different relationships than one will ever have anywhere else. This goes doubly so when you are entrusting the measurement of your job performance in an incredibly public and scrutinized field to the guy you just fed for a corner three-point attempt.
Imagine building that sense of a second family -- a band of brothers -- year after year for the majority of 18 NBA seasons, then having it taken away by the failure of your own body. Chronic pain makes everything more difficult, from day-to-day activities to interactions with friends and family. With this perspective, it's easier to excuse Nash not wanting to be around the Lakers or professional basketball in general, as watching teammates effortlessly complete tasks that would leave you laid up in bed would be like repeatedly salting a wound.
This is not Nash quitting on the Lakers. That has never happened. He may have been injured the majority of the last two-plus years, but he has also spent that time working his way back from these injuries. From all the hubbub over his admittance in Grantland's "The Finish Line" documentary series that "he wanted his money," this is a guy who went through an epidural (the medical injection commonly used to prepare for THE PAIN OF CHILDBIRTH) just to play in a playoff series where the Lakers would ultimately be swept. To play through that much pain is not the action of a man who simply wants his paycheck.
It's understandable to be be upset that the first-ballot Hall of Famer will not come by and impart his vast knowledge on to the Lakers young talent, especially considering the assets the Lakers gave up to acquire him. But while the Lakers may owe Phoenix a first-round pick as the last remnant of this doomed transaction, Steve Nash doesn't owe anyone for it. He has nothing left to give.