Nov 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash sits on the bench during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at New Orleans Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Nash is Healthy But Can He Contribute?

In late September when the Lakers open their hallowed doors and begin another training camp, Steve Nash will be the one who is 40 years old. He will be the one who looks around, perhaps for the last time, at the assembled players and their new coach.  He will be the one who carries a particular burden only because what has happened to Steve Nash these past two years has been disastrous.

Apr 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 107-95. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The evidence is scattered among the ruins of all that Steve Nash could not do, dreams Steve Nash could not fulfill, money Steve Nash stubbornly, selfishly refused to let go of.  If Steve Nash’s career hardly resembles the epic glory of his youth, if that is the sad truth during his training camp practices, then it just means he has come so far. He is an old player who has to suffer through the burden of time just like every other old player. In that he is not special. It’s gotten to a point in his career where people don’t expect much of him anymore.

This will be Steve Nash’s 19th year in the NBA. Years 17 and 18 were a holy hell, an epic failure. The worst stretch of his career was documented by months of bad health and physical brokenness. It was hard to watch this Nash when you remembered so vividly the other Nash. Even his ardent supporters held their breath when he had the ball in his hands as if some sort of curse from the heavens was going to rain down upon him just to prove a point.

It is fair to say his age taints everything.  Or maybe that is backwards- maybe it is not his age at all but his body that is his prisoner. But you can’t escape the Steve Nash arithmetic. He is so much older than the players he is guarding. Some of them were in middle school when Steve Nash was in the midst of his greatness.

He has been declared 100% healthy by Gary Vitti, the Lakers trainer, which only means his nerve root problem has recovered. The issue of Steve Nash is something altogether different, it is a black and white puzzle: his body quitting on him. That is a possibility Vitti can not answer because at the heart of the question is the unknown science of Steve Nash, 40 year old. “Does (no nerve pain) translate into putting on an NBA uniform and getting out there with these guys in a point guard dominated league on hardwood, not a grass soccer field? I don’t think anybody knows.”

That of course is the tipping point in all of this, the absence of knowledge regardless of the data in front of us.  Not too long ago Mitch Kupchak conceded he couldn’t count on Steve Nash anymore and it wasn’t a slight to Nash as much as it was the reality of a player his age with an injury that has taken him two years to recover from in a sport where the players at his position are explosive and many are young enough to be Steve Nash’s sons.

Mar 21, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) during the first half of the game against the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There is a point in every athlete’s life when the body is tired of the mind. It is dog tired of the practices and the willfulness and the punishment. So the body quits and dares the mind not to pack up and quit too. Perhaps this is where Steve Nash is and Steve Nash doesn’t know it yet;  players rarely do. Gary Vitti said, “He really wants to play and he’s committed himself to do whatever it is to play.”

There is a larger question here that men like Gary Vitti have to reconcile: how much can a body endure. Isn’t 18 years enough of a sample size considering the explosive nature of the point guard position.  It is like asking a bicycle to keep up with a Ferrari. The bike will blow a tire sooner rather than later.

It’s been a quiet four months for Steve Nash since he made his polarizing comments about wanting the money, about not retiring. Since then he has played soccer continuously. He has worked out with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  He has been declared 100% healthy by the Lakers but healthy does not mean able to play.

Steve Nash will be 41 years old by the time February rolls around. He will truly be in the winter of his career maneuvering through his last moments of competition. That is if he makes it that far, if his body can absorb the punishment one night and then stirring pain the next. The Lakers seem to understand the situation of his body and of time, of the reduction of Steve Nash.

The Lakers threw a bunch of money at the Washington Wizards to buy their second round pick and draft Jordan Clarkson who didn’t disappoint in summer league. No one would confuse Jordan Clarkson with a young Steve Nash. Clarkson is explosive and a finisher who can pop a mid range; in essence he is what the league has turned into while Steve Nash is a lonely figure. He is what the league has exiled. Need proof. Go ask your father.

If you do something for nineteen years more than likely you will be pretty good at it until you can’t do it anymore. Then it will steal from you, it will be a thief.  Stolen will be the player you once were. In its place will be the player everyone talks about in the past tense, nearly buried but not quite.  Those that used to love you can’t wait to get rid of you; fans turn and at the end they are cruel.

No one expected it to be part of Steve Nash’s biography- this image of himself inside of himself, trying to escape, begging for a last chance. No one expected to use such language when discussing Steve Nash but you can’t help yourself. You use the word slow and you use the word finished. His down the road reality, well that is Steve Nash’s present, that is right now.

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