Now that Grant Hill has retired and the playing days of Kurt Thomas similarly appear to be behind him, the players whose birthdays are just a day apart no longer top the list of the league’s oldest players.
The honor now belongs to Steve Nash, and if he wasn’t aware of it before, he is now — the NBA sent him a memo notifying him of his official status as the oldest player to grace a roster to start the season.
That fact, along with the way the Lakers stumbled into the playoffs following an injury-riddled campaign that included seeing Nash sidelined for 32 games, has Mike D’Antoni considering ways to preserve his veteran point guard for the duration of the season.
According to Nash, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is considering adopting a model similar to how San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich coaches Tim Duncan by giving him games off to rest throughout the season even when he is 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 added Jordan Farmar this summer, who along with Steve Blake should be able to take plenty of the weight from Nash’s shoulders in terms of capably running the offense while he gets some rest. Managing minutes will be key for the Lakers this season, who appear to be deeper overall even though the talent drop-off is relatively steep once you get past the team’s top-three players.
The Gregg Popovich model of randomly sitting his stars can be frustrating to fans, and may even seem controversial at times. But you can’t argue with the results — his veterans looked as sharp as ever in taking the eventual champion Heat to seven games in last season’s NBA Finals, and while the Lakers have no business with aspirations that high entering this season, they’d still like Nash to be playing at his highest level for as long as possible.