Steve Nash believes chance to move up on all-time assists list influenced D’Antoni’s decision to play him vs. Rockets

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In the final week or so of the Lakers lost season. there doesn’t seem to be any reason to risk further health complications with Steve Nash, who’s under contract with the team for one more year at almost $10 million next season.

But Mike D’Antoni appears to have found one.

Nash has appeared in just four of his team’s last 10 games, and had missed the 15 before that stretch. Playing in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, however, means that there are milestones available to be surpassed — and D’Antoni wants to help Nash accomplish at least one of them as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Steve Nash holds a theory on why he will play when the Lakers (25-51) host the Houston Rockets (51-25) at Staples Center. …

Nash remains five assists away from climbing up to third place on the NBA’s all-time list.

“Mike really wants me to get this assist thing out of the way,” Nash said. “Now I would really like to get it out of the way frankly. It’s out there in the air and everybody is talking about it in a way.” …

“Frankly, it’s one of those things I want to get it over with in a way. If I can. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world. If I can put it behind me, it would be nice not to have to talk about it anymore.”

Nash needs just five assists to pass Warriors head coach Mark Jackson for third on the all-time list, but seemed as though he’d prefer to sit these last few games out and focus on getting right for next season.

If his refrain sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve just heard something similar from Kevin Durant regarding his ongoing streak of scoring at least 25 points per game.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”