Before the Lakers game versus the Indiana Pacers, they got some mixed news on a few of their injured players. Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar have been cleared for activity and should be back in the next week or so, Kobe Bryant had what can be described as a setback, as he will be re-evaluated in three weeks, which means a return won’t be until 5 weeks at minimum. Steve Nash was also updated, and although he won’t play on Friday, it is likely that he returns next Tuesday at Minnesota. What can the Lakers and their fans expect from the oft-injured, aging point guard?
Nash is likely to return before Blake and Farmar, so it seems obvious that for a couple games, Nash will play the role of backup point guard. With the strong play of Kendall Marshall (10.5 points, 9.5 assists per game) it would be hard to justify Nash taking any minutes from him. Nash also has yet to practice with the team, so asking him to run it would likely be a disaster. It will be interesting to see if Coach Mike D’Antoni decides to use Nash at the more demanding point guard position or at the less demanding shooting guard spot. As a shooting guard Nash can spot up and reduce risk or re-injuring his back or leg.
Once Blake and Farmar return, it gets much murkier as to what the Lakers will do with Nash. Both Blake and Farmar had been playing well prior to their injuries, and with Marshall now showing he can play at an NBA level, it would be nearly impossible to find minutes for three of them, let alone all four players, at the point guard position. With Kobe out, the Lakers have some minutes that they can disperse at the shooting guard spot. Jodie Meeks has been one of the Lakers most consistent players on both ends of the court, but behind him the Lakers have had to put in Manny Harris and put Wesley Johnson and Nick Young out of position to fill up minutes. With Nash, Blake and Farmar all returning, expect the Lakers to run a lot of double point guard sets.
As for Nash’s on the court performance? Your guess is as good as mine. The last time we saw Nash actually suited up (his uniform, not an actual suit, we’re used to that) was November 10th. Seems like a long time ago right? He managed only 13 minutes and went 0-3 with 3 assists. Looking at his game log for this season, there isn’t a single game you can point to that contained any bit of promise. Nash’s shooting was off and his assist numbers just weren’t there. Now I’m sure much of this can be attributed to his injuries, but it is fair to wonder if he will ever revert back to anything resembling his final season in Phoenix.
If Nash returns Tuesday, he will have missed 39 games this season. Next Friday, Nash will turn 40. He is averaging 6.7 points, 4.8 assists on 26% shooting from the field. These aren’t an attempt to disparage Nash, they are just the facts. I think I speak for most Lakers fans when I say getting Nash was incredibly exciting. We finally had a point guard, even if he was an aging one. But now he is expected to miss time and not contribute while taking up $9 million in cap space. Regardless of his play when he returns, the Lakers will definitely take a long hard look at using their stretch provision on Nash. With Kendall Marshall under contract for next season at the minimum, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep him and Farmar for the future, instead of betting on a 40 year old with injury issues?