Steve Nash will attempt to redeem himself this Sunday, as the Los Angeles Lakers kick off the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs.
When Nash arrived in L.A. this year, local fans were overjoyed at the prospect of finally having a decent point guard. No one was under any illusions about the defensive output they could expect from the 39-year-old, but the general hope was that his offensive production would at least partially offset the way guys like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, etc would abuse him.
Unfortunately, things quickly veered away from how they were supposed to go when, two games into the season, Nash got hurt. A recovery that was supposed to take days quickly turned into weeks and months. That pattern would hold true for most of the year. When it was all said and done, Nash finished the regular season having played 50 games – the second lowest total in his career.
Even when Nash did play, though, he was a shell of what folks expected him to be. His assists dipped from 10.7 in 2011-12 to 6.7 in 2012-13, his field goal percentage went from 53 percent to 50 percent, and the cumulative effect of all his injuries left L.A. scrambling to develop any sort of legitimate rhythm.
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After a disastrous regular season campaign, the Lakers still, somehow, made it into the playoffs. Now, facing off against an upper-echelon team they kinda, sort match up well against, this group has a shot at redeeming themselves. In order to do so, though, they’re going to need Nash to redeem himself as well.
"Mentally, I'm champing at the bit and physically, I'm getting there," Nash told reporters Friday. "So, I'm very optimistic that I'll be able to play on Sunday, and I just don't want to overpromise and get ahead of myself. The last three weeks now, I wake up every morning thinking, 'Today's the day,' and then I want to hang myself after practice. So, I don't want to overpromise at this point, but I'm very optimistic."
Nash missed the majority of his team’s final games of the year and has been very limited in recent practices. He’s day-to-day heading into Sunday’s big game, but all signs seem to be pointing to him suiting up.
"The last two weeks, I couldn't sprint," he added. "There was just too much inhibition from the nerve. That was just shutting me down whenever I tried to cover some ground, so that's why I couldn't play the last few weeks. It's hard to play in an NBA game if you can't change ends of the floor. That's kind of the last little bit I'm hoping for. It's feeling pretty close, so another couple days, hopefully the epidural will continue to help and I'll be able to play on Sunday."
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With Kobe Bryant out and Steve Blake taking on more of a two-guard role, Nash’s return is more important now than ever. The fact that Spurs guard, Tony Parker, isn’t at 100 percent either means that (hopefully) Nash won’t routinely get burned defensively.
At this point, L.A. must have all hands on deck – deficiencies and all. If Nash can return and at least provide the squad with some decent shooting, they’ll have a chance to make a series out of this thing. If not, then it will all rest on the shoulders of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol – a risky bet, given the lack of consistency both have exhibited thus far this season.