The same week that the Lakers announced Kobe Bryant would be out for the rest of the season, they also announced Steve Nash would not be returning this season.
Nash’s two years in Los Angeles have been marked by various injuries, many you would expect for a 40-year-old point guard playing in the NBA. It has also been marked by losses that have are characteristic of that kind of inconsistency at point guard.
Nash is averaging 7.6 points and 4.7 assists per game in 10 appearances this year. Those are his worst numbers since his rookie year. And that was a long, long time ago.
The question for the Lakers to ask themselves is whther Nash still has a future with this team. He is still owed $9.7 million for next year, tying up a ton of cap room. And who knows how much a team like the Lakers can trust a 40-year-old to stay healthy and contribute.
The Lakers season became a disaster not because the roster was poorly constructed — well, it is. But rather, it has been abysmal because of all the injuries. Nash has been hurt, Kobe Bryant has been hurt and Pau Gasol has dealt with his own injuries. That equation has added to disaster.
Nash is not going anywhere though. He said he has no plans to retire because he wants to get paid. He earned that contract and he wants to fulfill it as best he can.
If the Lakers are looking to make a big splash in free agency, letting Nash go might be the best way to do so. Especially considering Kobe Bryant seems extremely impatient and expects the Lakers to go for a championship next year. He is not waiting through a rebuilding.
Bryant’s contract is the only big contract on the books. The Lakers could stretch Nash and pay about a $3.2 million cap hit over the next three years to free up some cap space. That would be quite a risk. But if the Lakers want to field a winner next year, it might be what they have to do.
The Lakers are at an interesting crossroads. One the organization rarely is at.