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


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.

Jeanie Buss: ‘Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser’


ESPN published a scathing article detailing the adverse effects Kobe Bryant has on free agents considering the Lakers.

Kobe basically responded with a shrug.

Lakers president Jeanie isn’t so quick to move on.

Buss, via ESPN:

“Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I’m glad they wouldn’t come to the team,” Buss said during a SportsCenter interview Thursday.

“I read the story,” Buss said Thursday. “I don’t agree with any of it. If there is somebody that’s on our payroll who is saying things like that, I’ll soon get to the bottom of it and they won’t be working for us anymore.”

In fact, Buss has a warning for all of Bryant’s detractors: “I have no doubt that Kobe will make people regret ever saying” those comments, she said.

That’s one scary threat, because it’s unlikely a 36-year-old Kobe with a recent devastating injury history is going make people pay on the court. Just what is he going to do?

Buss works on the business side of the organization, and from that perspective, Kobe’s two-year, $48.5 million contract extensionhanded to him without negotiation – was a worthwhile investment. He’s just so valuable to the brand, and keeping him went a long way in preserving the loyalty of the Lakers’ customers.

But it’s increasingly difficult – whether or not he turns off free agents – to make the case Kobe provides value on the court. When you consider Kobe’s prickly personality probably rubs many teammates the wrong way, yeah, it’s fair to question just how much Kobe is holding the Lakers back right now.

That’s not to diminish all that Kobe has accomplished and all he’s given the franchise, including helping it win five championships. But the situation has changed since the Lakers last won a title in 2010, and that includes how other players perceive Kobe.

I don’t think players are “afraid” to play with Kobe. I think they’re adults who’d rather not deal with such a demanding, bordering on rude, teammate who’s no longer physically capable of playing at an elite level while making it difficult to add support while sucking up a huge percentage of the salary cap.

That’s not fear. That’s reasonable.

Buss might endear herself to Kobe with her comments, and that’s probably her goal. At this point, what choice do the Lakers have but to maximize unity between the front office and Kobe?

But she’s further alienating other players and, potentially, members of the organization. Like with everything Kobe, that might help the bottom line, but it’s hard to see it making it easier to win basketball games.

Kobe Bryant missing Lakers’ final two preseason games


Kobe Bryant has been busy.

He’s warned Julius Randle about screwing up an opportunity to learn from Kobe and Byron Scott, called ESPN voters who ranked him the NBA’s 40th-best player “idiots” and led the Lakers with 19.0 points on 16.8 shots per game in the preseason.

He’s going to tire himself out.

So, despite Kobe’s plan to play all eight preseason games, he sat out the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers yesterday and will also miss the preseason finale tomorrow.

Scott, via Janice Carr of the Orange County Register:

“I was just thinking he needs some rest,” Scott said. “… I think we’re all pretty happy with where he is after the last two games.”

Bryant didn’t speak to reporters Wednesday but told Scott he didn’t have any qualms about sitting out. At least that was Scott’s story.

“If it was the regular season, it might be different, but he was OK,” Scott said. “He understands what the goal is and the goal was, which was to get off to a great start and build up his minutes, his endurance and everything and go from there. He’s fine.”

Hopefully, this is just Scott coming to his senses and not a setback with Kobe’s health. There’s no reason for Kobe, at his age and with his injury history, to play all eight preseason games. It was a dumb plan to begin with.

The Lakers need to save Kobe to play an unprecedentedly high number of regular-season minutes.

Kobe Bryant on Julius Randle playing with Kobe, for Byron Scott: ‘If you f— this up, you’re a really big idiot’


Lakers coach Byron Scott is trying to motivate rookie Julius Randle by publicly calling him out for not being in good enough shape. Repeatedly.

If that seems harsh, you should see Kobe Bryant’s words for the No. 7 pick.

Remember, this is the same Kobe who called ESPN voters who ranked him the NBA’s 40th-best player “idiots.”

Kobe on Randle playing with Kobe, for Scott:

If you f— this up, you’re a really big idiot. You know what I mean? ESPN are idiots, but you’re a really big idiot if you manage to f— this up.

Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work that way. The best players, even those with championship experience, don’t necessarily make the best mentors and coaches. They can’t just transfer their knowledge and skills through osmosis.

While Kobe has played for the Lakers, a dozen other first-round picks have made their debuts:

  • Javaris Crittenton
  • Jordan Farmar
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Sasha Vujacic
  • Brian Cook
  • Kareem Rush
  • Mark Madsen
  • Devean George
  • Tyronn Lue
  • Sam Jacobson

And here are first-round picks who made their debuts on teams Scott coached:

  • Tyler Zeller:
  • Dion Waiters
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Darren Collison
  • Julian Wright
  • Hilton Armstrong
  • Cedric Simmons
  • Chris Paul
  • J.R. Smith
  • Zoran Planinic
  • Brandon Armstrong
  • Jason Collins
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Kenyon Martin

Scott seems to have a much better record of player development than Kobe, both are far from perfect. Perhaps, all the busts just screwed it up themselves, but I think it’s more likely neither Scott nor Kobe provide a perfect Petri dish for rookies to grow.

Unquestionably, Randle can learn from Kobe and Scott. And, so far, it seems Randle has the talent to succeed.

But even if Randle takes every reasonable step, it’s still possible he fails as an NBA player. It’s far to soon to declare he’ll make it – even with Kobe and Scott around.

Jordan Hill says he re-signed with Lakers only because Mike D’Antoni left


Mike D’Antoni is still a popular punching bag in Los Angeles.

After D’Antoni resigned, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant have taken turns taking shots at the former Lakers coach.

Now, Jordan Hill is getting in the act, confirming a previous report he wanted to leave Los Angeles in free agency if D’Antoni remained coach.

Hill, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

“If Mike was here, I wouldn’t be back,” Hill said. “That’s the way it was. No disrespect to Mike, but apparently I didn’t fit his system. Why would I come back?”

“Last year, I was thinking too much about playing,” Hill said. “If I messed up, I wondered if I would see the floor again. Right now, Byron is relying on me and I’m one of his guys. That really builds more confidence in me to come out this year and play my game.”

Hill said he has stopped drinking alcohol, admitting it hurt his efforts on becoming the Lakers’ renewable energy source. Hill said the lifestyle change helped him drop from 253 pounds to 240.

Last season, Hill tied a career high with 72 games and set career highs with 32 starts and 20.8 minutes per game. There’s little evidence D’Antoni punished Hill for not fitting a certain style.

And how much more playing time could Hill have handled? As he acknowledged himself, he wasn’t in ideal shape to play hard for extended stretches.

Besides, the Lakers gave Hill $9 million guaranteed this season with a $9 million team option for the following year. Would he really have turned down that generous offer if Los Angeles had kept Mike D’Antoni?

Really, this probably speaks to D’Antoni’s poor communication skills. He used Hill more than any NBA coach ever has, and Hill still felt underutilized. Perhaps, D’Antoni could have done more to make Hill feel valued. That – even more than minutes – matters.