Steve Nash stepped on the floor nursing an injured back that took over 10 months to heal. But even when he fell to the ground after driving to the basket, Nash stood right up. He spent the entire day on Friday receiving text messages wishing him well on his 40th birthday. But Nash moved around the court with the same grace that he showed in his prime. When he hasn’t been in the training room, Nash’s 1 ½ years here with the Lakers have entailed a sort of tentativeness that hardly fit the free and creative playmaking that earned him two league most valuable player awards. Just when it appeared Nash could no longer provide anything despite the endless work just to return to the court, the Lakers’ guard provided the perfect rebuttal. In the Lakers’ 112-98 victory on Friday over the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, Nash posted a team-leading 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and five assists in 28 minutes in just his second game since returning from a back injury. “After 18 years, it’s very sweet. I thought it was gone,” Nash said. “I didn’t know I could get on top of my health issues. It’s still a long way from being certain or stable … But this amount of freedom and movement I have makes the two-a-days for 10 months worth it.” Nash has cemented a future Hall of Fame nod as the consummate team player. So he also credited the Lakers’ team balance that entailed five other players reaching double figures, including Chris Kaman (17 points), Wesley Johnson (17), Ryan Kelly (15), Steve Blake (14) and Jordan Hill (14). Nash also argued the Lakers’ (18-32) two-game winning streak shouldn’t spark any playoff discussion. After all, the Lakers rank 13th in the Western Conference and trail the Dallas Mavericks (29-21) by 11 games for the eighth playoff spot with 32 games remaining. The Lakers also have numerous injuries, including Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Pau Gasol (strained right groin), Xavier Henry (bone bruises in right knee), Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle) and Jordan Farmar, who sat out against the Sixers for precautionary reasons surrounding his left hamstring. “I wouldn’t want to get carried away and start thinking outcome instead of process,” Nash said. “Let’s just build and see what we can get.” Yet, Nash provided big-picture implications in another way with timely shooting and smooth behind-the-back passes. Nash became the fourth NBA point guard to play at age 40, joining Bob Cousy, John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Nash’s latest effort marked the most points scored by a 40-year-old since Karl Malone provided 20 for the Lakers on April 1, 2004. “He never ceases to amaze me. At age 40, I’m surprised he even wants to play,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Are you serious? You want to get out of bed and try this? It doesn’t surprise me with the type of person he is.” Why does he do it? “I love the game. When you realize it’s almost gone, you love it more,” Nash said. “You want to make the most of what you have left because it’s going to be hopefully 40 and 50 years of not playing basketball.” Nash played in only six games this season before nerve issues reemerged in his back. That sparked calls for Nash to retire. The Lakers could even waive him this offseason via the stretch-provision. After the Lakers acquired Nash from Phoenix in the 2012 offseason in what was considered a blockbuster deal, Nash sat out for a combined 32 games because of a fractured left leg and subsequent nerve damage in his back and hamstrings.
Steve Nash — 40 and finally healthy — leads Lakers to win over 76ers
L.A. Daily News | Feb 8