- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash plans to play in Game 1 of the team's playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, but is relying on coach Mike D'Antoni to pull him if his level of play isn't up to par.
"He's got to coach this team to win the game and if I'm not helping, and I'm not capable, he's got to get me out," Nash said. "Bottom line: There's no time to be sentimental or to give me too long of a leash. If I can't get it done, I shouldn't be out there."
Nash missed the Lakers' final eight games of the regular season with an injured right hip, hamstring and lower back. The 17-year veteran received two epidurals this week to try to alleviate the pain and attempted to sprint for the first time in weeks at the team's practice Saturday before it flew to San Antonio.
"We went up and down kind of like 10 trips, and I got through it OK," Nash said. "So, it wasn't like playing a quarter or anything, but at least it was a little bit more of a step for me and it gives me some optimism that I'll be OK to get through the game [Sunday]."
In the last game Nash played in -- March 30 at Sacramento -- the 39-year-old lasted just two minutes before coming out.
"We'll see," Nash said. "Anything is possible. It might go like a breeze and it might be difficult from the start. You never know, but I've been working hard to try to put myself in a position to give it a shot, and I think I'm ready to try."
The Lakers have tried to work on their sometimes spotty team chemistry, getting together for a group dinner on Friday night organized by Dwight Howard.
Howard would not divulge details of the meal, but the team was missing Kobe Bryant, who could not leave his Newport Beach, Calif., home as he recovers from Achilles surgery.
"We're praying for his recovery," Howard said. "We're praying that since he can't join the team that his spirits are high and for his health, that's the biggest thing. We're praying for his health and we're praying for a speedy recovery and his mind. We got a job to do and he's going to be watching, but we're going to keep him in our prayers."
"It was very hard watching my team from another coast," Howard said. "The toughest thing for me was I wanted to be there and I couldn't. I know how it feels, so the main thing we can do is make sure we stay in contact with him but keep him in our prayers.
"... We're going to do our part and just try to keep his head in the right direction."
D'Antoni visited Bryant at his home Friday along with Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak.
"Long trip and a lot of time driving," D'Antoni said jokingly about the close to 50-mile trek from the Lakers practice facility to Bryant's home. "He lives down below San Diego, I think."
D'Antoni said their discussion revolved around basketball, but he didn't break down the Spurs series completely with the injured guard.
"We talked about certain things, but nothing specific," D'Antoni said.
Bryant has been saving his specific observations for Pau Gasol, apparently. Bryant reached out to Gasol during each of the Lakers' past two games, calling Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and having him pass the phone over when L.A. played San Antonio, and then by texting Gasol during the Houston game.
"I don't check my cellphone at halftime, so I might do that since I know he's going to proactively send texts," Gasol said. "What he sent us all after the [Houston] game, he was very accurate as always. You see a lot more when you're outside and checking in from outside. His knowledge is tremendous, so I'll probably be checking my phone more now at halftime."
4hMichael C. Wright