Report: Steve Nash wanted to retire before season, but Lakers asked him not to

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Steve Nash played just 15 games last season and none this season due to injuries.

That has enraged many Lakers fans – especially when Nash golfs – who see him as stealing his $9,701,000 salary. They blame him for not retiring last summer and saving the Lakers money.

Perhaps their scorn is misdirected.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

The only reason Nash isn’t retired from basketball already, having put it all behind him, is so he could try to help the Lakers.

Nash was ready to call it a career before the season. After deep soul-searching to accept his body does not belong in an official NBA uniform any longer, he wasn’t just out for the season.

He was, and is, done.

The Lakers asked Nash not to announce anything, according to team sources. They hoped they could trade Nash’s $9.7 million salary, not only an expiring contract but also a giant coupon for another club to take and immediately save real dollars via insurance, to get a building block for the Lakers’ future.

I believe the Lakers tried to trade Nash’s contract, including for Rajon Rondo. That was the best way to handle this predicament.

I’m unconvinced Nash actually planned to retire.

Last spring, when his season was already over, Nash famously declared: “I’m not going to retire because I want the money.”

He even doubled down, saying he wouldn’t reconsider even if he regressed physically.

Nash, in a Q&A with Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’Lakers:

Q: Regarding the “money” comment to Grantland, if there a point where you feel like, physically, in the summer if things don’t go well, where you would feel like you just couldn’t uphold your end of the bargain? Would that change your perspective?

Nash: Frankly, I don’t think so. We fight in the collective bargaining to keep guaranteed contracts. I broke my leg playing for this team, and my body’s never been the same. Frankly, I would be lying if I didn’t say I feel that’s my end of the deal. We sign these contracts before (we know what what happens). Maybe it would be a better business if we got paid for what you actually accomplish, but that’s not the business we’re in, and frankly I would have made a lot more money if I got paid afterwards instead of before throughout my career, so it’s just a part of it. It’s a business.

And it sounds crass to sit here and talk about money, knowing that I make more money than 99 percent of the people in the world, but it’s the new normal. That’s my life, that’s my reality, and if I’m honest it’s a part of what you expect when you play in this business. I think it would also be false modesty if I apologized for that, and dishonest. That’s a key part of this business and industry. It gets convoluted because I love to play the game, and if I didn’t have any options, and the Lakers said you can come and play for us but by the way  we can’t pay you, and nobody else was offering me a deal, I would still play. And I would play for free. But not when you have three teams offering you money. (Note: He’s referencing the period before eventually agreeing to terms with the Lakers.) So it gets complicated, and sometimes it looks really ugly to talk about money.

This is Nash, in no uncertain terms, expressing his desire to finish his contract regardless of injury setbacks.

How do you square that with Ding’s report? I suppose Nash could have had a change of heart after specially saying he wouldn’t have a change of heart.

I doubt it, though. I think it’s much more likely someone – Nash and/or the Lakers – is trying to preserve his legacy by reducing fan outrage.

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.

Mike Brown reportedly on list of Indiana coach interviews

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The buzz for a while has been the Indiana coaching job is Mike D’Antoni’s to lose — the Pacers want to update their offense, and no one is more qualified to do it.

But other names are circulating and people being interviewed: Dave Joerger, the Spurs’ Becky Hammon, Miami’s Dan Craig, Dallas’ Stephen Silas, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham, Minnesota’s David Vanterpool, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn, Portland’s Nate Tibbetts, and don’t forget Chauncey Billups.

Now add veteran coach Mike Brown to the list, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Brown was the head coach of both the Cavaliers and Lakers, leading the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007 and being named Coach of the Year two years later. Brown has been the lead assistant under Steve Kerr for a few years now and has undoubtedly soaked up knowledge on setting up a modern NBA offense.

Whoever fills Nate McMillan’s shoes in Indiana has a tough job. Expectations may be high from ownership, but McMillan’s Pacers’ teams played hard and defended, making them difficult to play against. Their offense also was old school, which is why McMillan was fired after the Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, but it wasn’t terrible. How big a leap this team makes may rely less on the style of play and more on if Victor Oladipo has returned to his All-NBA form.