Triumphantly, Steve Nash returned to the Lakers starting line-up this week, putting up one of his best games in purple and gold on Friday. Coincidentally, the performance in Philadelphia also occurred on the same day as his 40th birthday. Not as coincidental, Nash may not be planning on finishing out the final year and a half on his contract.
According to Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News, Nash has been telling friends “this is going to be it.” Nash is said to have missed the camaraderie with teammates during his three month rehab stint for his nerve issue and wanted one last go around, essentially, before retiring.
Nash’s time in LA has been tumultuous to say the least. In total, he’s played just 58 of the 136 regular season and playoff games the Lakers have had since he joined the team in the summer of 2012. While his points per game didn’t change much in LA last season compared to his last in Phoenix, Nash’s 6.7 assists were the lowest of his career since 1999-2000. This season, he’s putting up a pedestrian 8.3 points and 5.4 assists.
With a medical retirement likely out of the books – which would have wiped Nash’s cap figure off the books next season – the Lakers and the Canadian point guard could still reach an agreement if he does indeed retire this off-season. Nash can choose to forgo the final year of his contract, wiping the money off the Lakers books. He could also, however, negotiate a lower figure for both sides, but it’s not a requirement. Technically, Nash could still be paid the full $9.7 million he’s due next season, and it could remain on the Lakers payroll.
It’s never an easy decision to walk away, and Nash clearly still has a passion for the game. Certainly, the final handful of months this season will determine the future for Nash and the Lakers.