Steve Nash open to taking games off to rest during regular season

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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.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

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.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.