Steve Nash: 'Can't rely on me'

Updated: April 18, 2014, 6:23 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As Steve Nash and Pau Gasol pondered their NBA futures following exit interviews with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, both expressed uncertainty about the months to come.

Only their reasoning was vastly different.

Nash, under contract with the Lakers for next season for $9.7 million, is sure he will be back in Los Angeles. But after playing just 15 games this season because of persistent nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings, the point guard doesn't know how effective he can be.

"They can't rely on me, frankly," said Nash, already the league's oldest active player at 40 years old. "Hopefully I come back and play 82 games next year and the sky's the limit, but they can't rely on me. We don't know what I'm going to bring."

Gasol, who will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 13-year career come July 1, is sure he still has "another good five years" left to play. But with the Lakers currently employing a coach whose style doesn't suit his game and the team in the middle of a rebuild, the big man doesn't know how much he wants to remain a Laker.

"I'm going to listen closely to what the Lakers will have to offer and say about the team's situation and position at the time," Gasol said. "We know what it is today, but we don't know what it is going to be July 1. See how the draft is going to play out, who they are going to end up drafting. Things like that that can have an impact or an effect on the structure of the team."

Gasol also told Yahoo! Sports he would be open to reuniting with New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, who previously coached the Lakers to five NBA titles.

"I'm happy for him and the position that he got," Gasol said, according to Yahoo!. "I'm always going to be a big fan and a friend. I would listen."

Nash missed the final four games of the season after tweaking his hamstring. He estimates he is three to four weeks away from being healthy but said that compared to last summer, when he was unable to even sprint until early September, he will have an ample amount of time to prepare himself for what will be his 19th and final season.

While Nash said he would "uncover every stone" this offseason to try to achieve a level of sustainability with his health, he is just as committed to finding some way to help the Lakers next season. He already is the general manager for Canada Basketball; how about a turn as an unofficial assistant coach?

"Regardless, I want to contribute," Nash said. "Whether I play or don't play, I'd love to be here for the young guys, be a sounding board -- even if it was out of design. Like, 'We really want you to help this rookie,' that would be an honor."

Nash experienced a similar matriculation as a rookie with the Phoenix Suns, when he learned at the heels of Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson.

The Lakers, who finished with the sixth-worst record in the league, thus giving them a 6.3 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 21.5 percent chance of landing in the top three, will have a lot riding on the selection, which will be the franchise's first in the lottery since taking Andrew Bynum No. 10 in 2005.

Lottery picks aren't automatic, of course. The Lakers had eight former ones on their roster this season, and it was a mixed bag from guys such as Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall and, to a lesser extent, Jordan Hill, who are still trying to align their potential with their production.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who will have his exit meeting with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Friday and will address the media afterward, was left to make something with that mixed bag of ingredients.

"I don't know that any coach is going to have more success than he did with our team this year," Nash said, supporting his longtime coach. "Just a litany of injuries, new faces and guys that were kind of, for lack of a better word, discarded in one way or another by other franchises. We tried to put it all together, and that's not a situation I think where you can fairly judge a coach, especially with what happened this year. I think the fact that it remained relatively positive inside the locker room and on the practice floor is a huge win for everybody."

Gasol admitted to having run-ins with D'Antoni but said he came around on him and his uptempo style of play.

"I think Mike and I had our misunderstandings over these last two years," Gasol said. "But I don't know how much it would affect my decision [to stay if D'Antoni remains the coach]. ... I think we found a common ground."

With so much still up in the air for the Lakers this offseason -- a pivotal draft pick to settle on, the future of D'Antoni to decide on, potentially 12 players on the current roster bound for free agency to negotiate with -- there is plenty of material to sift through.

If it sounds like the stuff of Hollywood, you're right. Nash currently is involved in two film projects chronicling his days in L.A., a Web series for ESPN's Grantland called "The Finish Line," as well as "NASH: The Documentary," which will be released this month.

"I just felt like it was an opportunity to be really honest and, backlash be damned, I felt right at this stage of my career to be open and to hell with being judged, that is the truth," Nash said.

Borrowing the same candor, Gasol said his time with the Lakers could very well be nearing an end.

"The last few years I always kept on my mind that this could be my last day here, so let me try to enjoy it," Gasol said. "That's kind of been my mindset quite often the last couple years. This could be my last day, maybe, there's a chance. But I try not to think about it. Whatever happens, it's going to work out for the best. I'm very privileged and I've had an amazing career until this point. I want to continue to build on my career and prolong it as long as I can at a high level."

With or without Gasol, Nash said there is no place for L.A. to go but up after the worst season in the history of the franchise since it relocated from Minneapolis.

"We've hit the bottom," Nash said. "We had championship aspirations, and nothing's gone right. It's been obviously a disaster individually and collectively, but not for lack of want and trying. Sometimes you got to take your shots and try to keep fighting. You can't always be on top and you can't quit when you're down."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


MORE NBA HEADLINES