- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Steve Nash will play against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday after exiting early in the Los Angeles Lakers' 92-86 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls with nerve irritation in his left leg and tightness in his back.
"It's OK," Nash said. "I feel like it's a little stiff in the mornings and a little irritated, but I feel pretty good. So I'm going to give it a shot tonight."
It will be Nash's 10th game of the season, a reminder of just how much time he's missed as the Lakers will be playing game No. 52 of 82 on the schedule, but also an important milestone because it rules out the option of a medical retirement and having his entire $9.7 million salary for 2014-15 come off the Lakers' books. If a veteran player participates in fewer than 10 games in a season and is found physically unable to play by team and league doctors, he can become eligible for the medical retirement route.
Even if Nash doesn't retire, he may not be on the Lakers' roster next season. The team can waive the point guard via the stretch provision and have Nash count about $3.2 million a year for the next three years against the salary cap.
Nash said he doesn't allow himself to think about the potential that every game could be his last if he suffers another setback.
"I know that's a reality, but at the same time I don't necessarily go out there harboring thoughts of that," Nash said. "I'm usually pretty comfortable by the time the game starts, unless I'm not right that day, which a lot of the time the last year and a half, I haven't been. Then you are feeling quite vulnerable. But when I feel good, like I did last week, I don't have those thoughts at all."
Nash has appeared in just 59 of the Lakers' 133 games since L.A. traded for him in the summer of 2012.
Missing so much time has motivated Nash to come back to try to justify his salary.
"You never want to be not earning your keep," Nash said. "That's just not the way I'm made up. I always feel like I want to fight and try to do what I can. That's a big part of why I've worked so hard the last 10 months. Basically I've gone twice a day for 10 months just so I can try to get back on the floor. One, I want to be a part of this team, and two, it's my job."
Nash, 40, has been dealing with nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings since injuring his left leg in the Lakers' second game last season.
"Some days it sucks, but other days you feel great and you have a good session, a good game and you feel like it's all worth it," Nash said.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said Nash does not want pity.
"I wish I was 40," the 62-year-old D'Antoni said. "Are you kidding me? I don't feel bad for him at all. He's still doing what he loves ... I admire what he's doing. I think he shows a passion and just a joy of playing that rivals anybody. And he's also willing to put it on the line. People will criticize him or not criticize him or whatever, [but] you know what? What he wants to do, or his love for the game, has overridden all that, and you got to admire something like that. So we'll see what he does tonight."
Nash said as long as he can perform physically, his basketball instincts should take over.
"I just want to be moving well," he said. "If I move well like I did last week, I know I can be effective. And [if I am] moving well, I know in games I'll play well. So for me, that's the goal. Just the moving. And if I can, good things will happen."
"Chris has been playing well," D'Antoni said. "Offensively, we've struggled a little bit to start the games, so he'll help there."