Thursday, March 28, 2013
Steve Nash can't do it all alone
By Dave McMenamin ESPNLosAngeles.com
MILWAUKEE -- Before the Los Angeles Lakers suffered their latest setback -- a double-digit loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday in a game they once led by, you guessed it, double digits -- Mike D'Antoni was asked a pretty simple question about his team.
Is there a sense of urgency in the Lakers' locker room?
"Sometimes," D'Antoni said in his typical self-deprecating nature.
There's a player on the roster who knows how urgent things are.
A player who, at 39, is closer in age to most of the coaching staff than he is to the young guys on the roster.
Steve Nash pushed himself as far as he could, but he had to sit out the last part of Thursday's game.
A player who thought he was getting a chance to be like Clyde Drexler joining Houston or Gary Payton joining Miami -- and all-time great getting one last legitimate chance at a ring to complete his career.
A player who is one of the top-five assist men in NBA history, yet willingly gave up the distributor role to set the example for everyone in his locker room that it will take sacrifices from everybody to stop the ship from sinking.
A player who had already missed 24 games this season because of a fractured leg, so he wanted to do everything he could Thursday to cajole his body through a second night of a back-to-back on the road even though his hamstrings were "on fire" from spasms to his right hip.
Steve Nash is doing whatever he can to salvage this Lakers season with nine games remaining and L.A. clinging to a paper-thin half-game lead on the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
And Nash deserves nothing less than to have everybody else on the roster doing the same.
Nash played two and a half quarters in the Lakers' 113-103 loss to the Bucks on Thursday. He had 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting, five assists, two steals and even a block in the first half as L.A. took a three-point lead into intermission.
When he was on the court, he was magic.
When he was off the court, he was lying on the baseline with a heat pack on his groin. Yet, even when he was out of the game, he made sure to first high five every hand on the bench before he stretched out on the hardwood. And even when he was out of the game and prone on the floor, as soon as a timeout was called he'd spring to his feet and scurry out to half court to greet his teammates.
He tightened up at halftime and didn't have anything left in the third quarter, coughing up three turnovers in seven minutes. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti was wary of Nash playing at all against the Bucks, and when D'Antoni saw his longtime point guard struggling, he pulled him even though Nash wanted to keep pushing.
"I just didn't have the heart to put him back in," D'Antoni said. "He wanted to go back in, but it wasn't fair to him. He was hurting."
So Nash returned to his baseline spot for the fourth quarter after getting treatment in the locker room and showed he had the heart to still be a part of the game even if he wasn't playing.
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And the two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star cheered as if he were Robert Sacre. He yelled out to encourage Steve Blake to keep chasing Monta Ellis around. He shook both of his fists to celebrate Pau Gasol getting a layup. He slapped hands with Dwight Howard.
It was the 1,201st game of his storied career and he was just trying to help his guys believe they could gut one out on a cold night in Milwaukee.
He said he was hopeful to play in Sacramento on Saturday. He'll do whatever he can to get back in the lineup and make a difference with his passes and shots and not just his words.
But even Nash was puzzled when asked if the Lakers had the sense of urgency that D'Antoni said was sporadic.
"It's strange," Nash said. "I think that everybody realizes it. I feel like we come out for games and are ready to play, generally. Somewhere along the line, I don't know if it's reverting to something or we just lose the flow that we have going, but it seems like we get in pretty good positions in these games and then it all goes. It's disappointing.
"I think obviously it goes against having a sense of urgency, but it seems we start the game with some urgency, get ourselves going and then it just dissipates."
Nash can't do it all himself. In fact, he knows that doing it by himself won't help the group get to where it needs to go.
If only it were as easy to spread a sense of urgency as it is for Nash to rack up assists.