Steve Nash open to limited minutes

Updated: September 30, 2013, 1:48 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Steve Nash recently received a memo from the NBA that served as both an honor and a reminder of the challenge he'll face as starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers: Nash, who will turn 40 in February, is officially the oldest player on a league roster as the 2013-14 season opens.

While the two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star isn't about to succumb to Father Time just yet as he prepares for his 18th season, his team is planning on cutting back his playing time to save him for the long haul.

According to Nash, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is considering adopting a model similar to how San Antonio's Gregg Popovich manages Tim Duncan by giving him games off to rest throughout the season even when healthy.

"Mike mentioned it to me," Nash told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday during a sit-down interview on the eve of the first day of Lakers training camp. "I'm open to it. Obviously I'm not the type of guy that's going to look at the schedule and see which games I can miss -- that's never occurred to me -- but if there's a way that we can make the season better by missing a game here and there, I'm open to it."

The Lakers play 19 sets of back-to-back games this season, including four in March, when the dog days of the season can wear on players' bodies. D'Antoni told Nash that those could be opportunities to give him a night off.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak also said this week that Nash's playing time should be cut back on a night-to-night basis this season.

"We're not expecting 35 minutes a game from Steve," Kupchak said, adding that the offseason acquisition of Jordan Farmar should give L.A. options when Nash is out.

"With Steve Blake and Jordan and Steve Nash, we're hoping that the combination will give Steve Nash some rest where we won't have to rely on him 100 percent," Kupchak said. "He's 39 years old. You can't play a guy like that 35, 40 minutes a game. I don't know what the number is. I don't know if it's 25, 28, 31 [minutes], but I think we have some players we can go to and give him a rest."

Nash was wary about placing an arbitrary cap on his playing time before any games have been played.

"I think 30 minutes and above is kind of similar territory," Nash said. "I mean, what's the difference between 30 and 34 and 32 [minutes]? I think that stuff's hard to accomplish anyways.

"It's a hard one. Mike [D'Antoni has] always said that. When we try to limit the minutes, he's the first to say, 'I can't do it. I'm trying to win.' So, we'll see how it goes."

Indeed, at D'Antoni's introductory news conference after joining the Lakers, the coach said, "I'm going to say that we got to take care of [Nash], cut his minutes down, him and Kobe [Bryant's], and every time we want to win, they're going to play a lot. That's just the way it is. If I want to win, he's going to play."

Nash played 32.5 minutes per game last season, averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists. But he missed 32 games because a broken left leg and nerve damage to his hip and hamstring that stemmed from the leg injury.

He received three epidurals to try to quell the nerve discomfort before having to shut down his season prematurely before the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the Spurs. The injury continued to linger so long that Nash said he was worried about his NBA future during the early part of the summer, but he has since made a full recovery. The veteran guard said he has been "100 percent" for the past three weeks and even played full-court five-on-five scrimmages at the Lakers' practice facility a handful of times during that span.

"I feel good," Nash said. "I don't want to discount that age is a factor, but I also don't want to overindulge in it. I take care of myself, I work hard, I prepare and I feel great, so I'm sure it is a factor in some capacity, but at the same time, I don't want it to have to be limiting if it doesn't have to be. I think the only way to find out is to prepare and play and see what happens."

Nash said the Lakers' fate this season remains undecided.

"I think the thing about our team, there's just so many question marks," Nash said. "Health: me, Pau [Gasol], Kobe. All these kind of role players, how's the chemistry going to stack up? Like, what do they really got? Because none of them are guaranteed entities where people were seeking them out for multiyear deals. So it's like, what can they really provide?"

Nash was unsure when Bryant would return -- "It sounds like it could be any time from the start of the season to Thanksgiving or Christmas," he said -- but had full confidence in the shooting guard's chances of recovery from a torn Achilles.

"I'm sure he'll do everything possible to come back, and if I had to put my money on it, I'd say he'll exceed expectations," Nash said.

Staying optimistic, Nash said one thing the Lakers already have going for them is an early camaraderie from most of the team participating in voluntary workouts together during the past month.

"There's some nice little chemistry forming, I think. That's potentially an upgrade from last year in that department, so that's nice," Nash said. "We got to play well, have a good year, and we got to find a chemistry. Chemistry has got to be a real strong suit for us. We got to find a real rhythm together."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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