Steve Nash to miss entire 2014-15 season with ongoing back injuries

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Steve Nash has had one of the most illustrious NBA careers of the last 20 years, and now, it is likely over. The two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer will miss the entire 2014-15 season as he continues to battle nerve issues in his back, as first reported by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:

Nash is expected to be ruled out for the 2014-15 NBA season because of recurring nerve damage in his back, according to league sources.

Nash, 40, had said he expects this 19th NBA season to be his final one. But he has not announced his retirement. Nash has not stated an intention of playing for a team away from Los Angeles and his children, saying in March that he would be done if the Lakers used their stretch provision to cut him for salary-cap savings: “That would be it. I’ll either be back here or I’ll be done.”

Now, Nash might try to dream anew of more rest for a full year and one more shot. But Nash’s body has simply told him that it isn’t up to playing NBA basketball, as much as his words have been telling people that he still loves playing and believes he can contribute if allowed.

The Lakers confirmed the news Thursday evening in a press release:

Due to a recurring back injury, Lakers point guard Steve Nash will be out for the season, it was announced today.  After consultations with Lakers medical staff, both Nash and the organization believe it is best to focus on rest and rehabilitation at this time.

“Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now,” said Nash.  “I work very hard to stay healthy and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult.  I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health.”

“As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we’re even more disappointed for Steve,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.  “We know how hard he’s worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn’t been able to get there up to this point in time.  Steve has been a consummate professional, and we greatly appreciate his efforts.”

Nash has been plagued by injuries since signing with the Lakers in the summer of 2012. A broken left leg early in his first season with the Lakers led to nerve damage in his leg, which has led to continued nerve damage in his back. Last week, he reinjured his back while he was lifting bags.

This news isn’t much of a surprise for the 40-year-old Nash, who is the oldest player in the NBA. But that doesn’t make it any less of a bummer. He’s already hinted at retirement following the final year of his contract, in which he is owed $9.7 million. Now, there’s virtually no question this is the end.

When Nash joined the Lakers in 2012, he was expected to be part of a superteam that also included Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But injuries and chemistry issues prevented that team from contending for a title, and Nash played in just 65 total games during his first two seasons in Los Angeles. It’s a sad ending to the career of one of the greatest point guards of all time, the conductor of the mid-2000s “Seven Seconds of Less” teams in Phoenix that are among the greatest teams never to win a championship.

He signed with the Lakers to attempt to win the title that had eluded him his entire career. But due to injuries, Nash’s tenure in the purple and gold is going to go down in history as an afterthought most fans would like to forget, similar to Hakeem Olajuwon’s time with the Raptors or Karl Malone’s single season with the Lakers.

It’s a shame that one of the defining players of his generation is going out this way.

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.