HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It seemed like a splendid idea at the time, pairing up Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles as some sort of super team.
What could possibly go wrong with a lineup of four future Hall of Famers?
Well, it would be cruel to count the ways at this point. But the abbreviated version goes like this: Kobe is scrapping and clawing his way back from an Achilles injury, Dwight vacated the premises via free agency after a tumultuous season in purple and gold, Gasol is set to reclaim his game after a lost season and Nash … Lakers fans are still waiting to see the Steve Nash that rattled them when he was with the rival Phoenix Suns.
As disastrous as things have turned out on several fronts for the Lakers where that proposed super-team is concerned, nothing could be more disappointing than what they have (not) gotten from Nash, who suffered another setback in Thursday night’s preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings. His sore left ankle forced him out of the action and prompted a somewhat predictable but still starting revelation from Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.
“I think this will happen off and on all year,” D’Antoni said of the need to rest Nash, “but he’s going to give you a good season and good stuff. We have to take care of him.”
Father Time is clearly camping out around Nash’s locker. Nash turns 40 in February. He’s light years removed from the MVP seasons we saw from him in Phoenix, when it seemed like all he did was get better each day. He missed 32 games last season with a broken leg and other lower-body ailments associated with that injury. He never got the chance to perform consistently with Bryant, Howard and Gasol.
The move to Los Angeles, however, appears to have taken a toll on Nash. It’s been one injury mishap after another and now this, D’Antoni’s warning that Nash will need periodic rest throughout a season that is already going to wear thin the patience of the Lakers’ faithful who are used to rooting for a true contender.
Nash, the oldest player in the league as of this moment, has always been a warrior. He’s played through all sort of ailments. So this is not an indictment of him or his fabric as a competitor. This is more about the fact that he, like so many others before him, cannot escape the inevitable.
Even if your skills remain sharp as ever, and from all indications Nash, if healthy, could perform at the highest level. But the healthy part is what is most troubling. Nash admitted as much to reporters after Thursday night’s game, his most telling statements captured here by ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin:
“We’ll see,” Nash said Thursday when informed of D’Antoni’s comments. “I’m hoping. Because [the ankle] has gotten better. At the start of camp, it wasn’t very good at all, and through camp it did improve. I think [Thursday] was more of an unfortunate day than a real problem. It could linger, but I don’t expect that to be the case. I’m hoping that through this month we can try to put it behind me. It’s kind of a little bit of a dance because I need this time to prepare, but at the same time, you obviously don’t want to pound the ankle to where I’m not able to function.”
Nash said he cannot remember a specific play that caused the ankle injury but thinks it occurred sometime in September when the Lakers were holding voluntary scrimmages at the team’s practice facility prior to training camp beginning.
“I think it was my first few days back playing,” Nash said. “I don’t think my ankle maybe was in a great position and I didn’t realize it and I pounded on it and I woke up the next morning after playing three days in a row and I was really sore, and it’s kind of persisted since. Like I said, I feel fairly confident it shouldn’t be a huge issue.”
I’m glad Nash is fairly confident that he can battle through this issue and get back to playing the way he’s used to, because I guarantee you there are plenty of skeptics out there who don’t feel the same way.