LAS VEGAS (AP) — When the Lakers traded four draft picks to sign Steve Nash, his new teammates couldn’t wait to talk about what might happen when Nash began distributing the ball to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
A day after Nash’s season and possibly his career ended before the regular-season opener, there wasn’t much said about the point guard who never played enough to make a difference in Los Angeles.
“We didn’t bring it up in practice. We haven’t talked about it at all,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said Friday. “Most of the guys who’ve been in the league for a while, they’re professionals. They know this is life in the NBA. You send out well wishes and then try to move on.”
That didn’t mean Scott didn’t have some compassion for the 40-year-old Nash, who announced jointly with the Lakers on Thursday that he would miss his 19th season in the league because of a back injury.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to coach him,” Scott said before the Lakers’ final preseason game in Las Vegas. “Steve has always been one of my favorite people in the league because he’s such a professional, such a gentleman. Just like everybody else, I’m wishing him all the best.”
Slowed by injuries, Nash played in only 65 games for the Lakers over two seasons, and in most of those he was clearly not in top form. Still, the Lakers were counting on some quality minutes from Nash in the final year of his three-year contract this season, even while preparing for the worst case scenario.
Jeremy Lin will likely be the recipient of more time at point guard with Nash’s injury, while veteran backup Ronnie Price will get plenty of minutes, too.
“I’m not real concerned. We’ve got two very good quality point guards,” Scott said. “We’re probably going to have to look for another one, but for right now I’m pretty happy with Ronnie. He’s played extremely well for us. Jeremy is just coming back from an injury (left ankle) and the last couple of games he’s starting to get back into it, so I’m not real concerned about it.”
With the announcement his season was over, Nash has likely played his last for the Lakers, who signed him at a time when there was a lot more talent in Los Angeles than there is now. The Lakers thought Nash was the short-term answer to their point guard woes, and in his first year with the team he had players like Bryant, Gasol and Dwight Howard to feed the ball.
But Nash didn’t flourish even with that talent, with his assists dropping sharply and his playing time limited by injuries. He played in only 15 games last year, and was trying to come back this year on a team that oddsmakers figure won’t come close to winning half its games.
Lin said he was shocked to hear that Nash’s season was over.
“He looked great. He was moving great, moving well. Everything seemed fine,” Lin said. “They did every type of precautionary thing possible to make sure he was ready when he needed to be ready, and he was peaking at the right time. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work.”
Though Nash and the Lakers didn’t mention retirement, NBA fans may have seen the last of the Canadian point guard who won MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 as the captain of one of the most prolific offenses in the league in Phoenix. Nash was an eight-time All-Star, including his final season with Phoenix before joining the Lakers, but there’s not much market for 40-something point guards in the NBA.
Lin said that would be a loss not only for the Lakers but the league.
“You’re talking about one of the best players ever — a veteran, a voice,” Lin said. “Aside from the physical stuff, everything else about him is stable and solid, how he shows up, how he controls the game, and he brings a lot of consistency. The only thing that hasn’t been consistent is his health.”