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Steve Nash plans to return to practice

NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fourth straight game Thursday, falling 116-107 to the New York Knicks, but help could be on the way in the form of Steve Nash.

Nash, who has been sidelined the past 21 games with a fractured fibula in his left leg, told reporters after the game that he has worked some on-court running into his rehabilitation and plans to practice with the team in L.A. next week when the Lakers return from their four-game trip.

"Hopefully, I can practice next week," Nash said. "We'll see. I'm definitely getting better. We'll see if I continue to improve and there's no setbacks, then I should be able to practice next week.

"On the court, I've been running the last day and a half, and [my leg] has been responding pretty well. So, I haven't done a really huge load, huge amount, but it's something."

Nash said he does not have a return game circled in his mind. The Lakers play the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday, followed by a road game at Golden State on Saturday and then another game against the Knicks at Staples Center on Christmas Day.

"I'm not really sure how it will respond," Nash said. "I still can't do certain things. I'm just knocking down hurdles, so the first one is to be able to run, and then you hop the next few hurdles and take some contact and see how my body responds."

Nash's teammates are clamoring for the former two-time MVP to come back.

"The more time we got on the floor, the better we will be," Kobe Bryant said. "A couple key guys have been out of there. Steve is one of the best passers this game has ever seen. He will do a great job of getting guys open looks and guys in position to be successful."

Nash was already managing expectations, however.

"If I come back and we take off, by no means am I the savior," Nash said. "If I come back and we struggle with it, it's not going to be all on me. It's a team sport. We all got to work. And if people want to judge us when I come back, that's fine. I'm not bothered by it. I just want to focus on getting as fit as I can to try to help the team as much as I can and let the chips fall."

The eight-time All-Star said watching the Lakers stumble to a 9-14 record without him has been difficult, but he has avoided rushing back before his leg is fully healed.

"It's a tough situation to watch the team struggle with myself, Steve Blake and Pau [Gasol] out of the lineup," Nash said. "The guys are hobbled a little bit [without us]. To watch the guys struggle, the right decision is to come back when you're 100 percent, to prevent further setbacks than to be out for another extended period of time. On the other hand, there's the feeling amongst all of us, we all want to get back out and just help."