And in this corner, 13.8 billion years old, wearing a white robe and carrying an hour glass, with a record of a gazillion-and-0, the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the universe: Father Time.
Good luck, Steve Nash.
While from a viewpoint of perseverance it is admirable that the 39-year-old point guard continues to grind away on the practice court, in training rooms and occasionally even in NBA games, perhaps Nash is inching closer to the inevitable day that he understands the only way to make the pain cease is to stop banging his head against the wall.
Another season in Los Angeles — his 18th in the league — is already taking shape as another fractured fairytale that might only wind up rivaling a year ago in production and frustration.
Three games into the Lakers season of waiting for Kobe Bryant to perform his on walk-on-water miracle of treating Achilles’ tendon surgery as if it were no more than a bad cold, Nash is neither completely on the shelf or fully in the picture. A bruised quadriceps gave him a seat on the bench as Jordan Farmar ran the offense down the stretch in the opening night win over the Clippers. He sat out the next night at Golden State. Then he could provide no help at all in the fourth quarter of another game that slipped away to the Spurs.
Not surprisingly, Nash is beginning to question himself and expressed those concerns to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
“The nerves in the broken leg, then the nerves in the back and hamstring (last season)…I’d never felt my nerves in my life. I feel them every day now,” Nash said late Friday night. “So my body’s different. I worked incredibly hard this summer and got myself back where I have a chance. I felt good tonight; I could’ve had a good game.
“The want is there; I’m still enjoying the challenge. It comes from within. I know what I’ve been through; I know how old I am and the miles I have on the body, but I still take the challenge. And there are still things I can build on and can improve.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has called it “a process” and that’s exactly what it is — the aging process that is both inevitable and cruel to those who won’t acknowledge it. Just look at the Botoxed faces of some of those celebrities that sit courtside at Staples Center.
It might have seemed like a good idea to give up two first-round picks and two second-round picks for the former two-time MVP a year ago when the Lakers were assembling their fantasy team that also included Dwight Howard. But that was before a broken leg limited him to just 50 games and Nash was never able to find any kind of rhythm in an offense that couldn’t find an identity.
The thought was that with Howard gone, with Pau Gasol back in the middle, with D’Antoni given the free rein to run the offense that he knows and likes and with Nash given an entire summer to rest and rehab and then work his soon-to-be-40-year-old body back into shape, that he could look like his old self again.
Trouble is, all that seems to be there is an older self, which is not so much a failing, only reality. For D’Antoni to keep believing that all will be well again in fourth-quarter clutch situations as soon as Nash is back to form is denial. It would take the Hubble Telescope to see those 2005 and 2006 MVP seasons from here, and there is precious little reason based on the history of mankind to believe Nash can come within light years when the nicks and twinges are already evidence of a betraying body again less than a week into the season.
“I am 39. I’ll be 40 in a few months,” Nash said. “So you have to adapt your mindset to the new challenge. This is where I’m at. I have to get on top of my body, and I’ve got to let my game come around.
“It’s going to take more patience than usual, and it’s going to take maybe less work and more rest. I really have to check myself a lot as far as my typical approach to things to not overdo and not put myself back because I’m overdoing it or I’m trying for too much.
“This is where I am. I’ve got to accept some of that — and not give an inch when it comes to my belief.”
Tell that to the guy standing over in the other corner waiting for the bell for the next round to ring, tightening that belt on his unbeaten record.