Is Medical Retirement Best Option for Steve Nash?

Ehran KhanContributor IIINovember 18, 2013

Should the venerable Steve Nash end his illustrious NBA career early?
Should the venerable Steve Nash end his illustrious NBA career early?Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

It's sad to see, but Steve Nash's NBA career looks like it may be coming to an untimely end.

Nash was an All-Star just two seasons ago, but he has battled debilitating injuries since joining the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 2013 season.

Medical retirement would have sounded laughable just a month ago, but the lingering effects of a broken leg suffered early last season continue to plague the Lakers point guard.

"It gets really confusing," Nash said last Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I have obviously back issues. It's nerves coming from my back. You could call it the back, you could call it the nerves, the pain in the hamstring, it's all the same thing. It gets a little convoluted."

You know the issue is serious when the player can't even pinpoint the source of the pain. 

Nash came out of L.A.'s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 10 after just 13 minutes of action.

"It's just when you're so limited and you're limping, you're trying to get off your left leg the whole time, then you just can't be effective and you're making it worse," said Nash. "I tried to play through it, but to what diminishing returns."

Nash spends more time in the training room than on the court these days.
Nash spends more time in the training room than on the court these days.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The two-time NBA MVP is the oldest player in the league and has one more year remaining on his contract after this one.

For a player who has reached the heights that Nash has scaled in his illustrious career, it's tough to call it quits so abruptly.

Nash was still an extremely effective player when last healthy. No doubt he believes in his own mind that he can get back to that level if his health permits.

But there's never been a battle that Father Time hasn't won.

During his brief time with the Lakers, Nash has already sat out 38 of the team's 94 games. He missed just 37 games total in his eight-year stint with the Phoenix Suns.

Even when he's been on the court, Nash has looked his age.

He doesn't penetrate the lane as deeply as he used to and has had trouble just bringing the ball up the court against quicker point guards who are willing to harass him for 94 feet.

Nash managed to still be effective last season, playing more off the ball alongside Kobe Bryant—spacing the floor and putting his deadly outside shot to good use.

Steve Nash has struggled to run the offense so far this season.
Steve Nash has struggled to run the offense so far this season.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Without Bryant so far this season, it's evident that Nash can no longer handle the burden of running an offense full-time. He's averaging fewer than seven points and five assists a game, while shooting a miserable 26 percent from the field.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who knows better than anyone what Nash is capable of, is worried as well.

"I'm concerned," he said, via the Los Angeles Times"It's tough on him more than anybody. He wants in the worst way to be able to perform and have a good year. He's doing everything he can do. When you watch him and watch him struggle, it's not fun for anybody."

The Lakers' front office, meanwhile, may quietly be hoping that Nash decides to hang it up after this season if things don't turn around.

It has been well-documented that L.A.'s only meaningful contract on the books past this season is Nash's one remaining year at $9.7 million.

Should Nash opt for retirement, the Lakers would have close to $60 million in cap space (before accounting for cap holds, their first-round draft pick and charges for empty roster slots).

That could be enough to lure two max-level free agents in addition to re-signing Bryant. 

This is a franchise that's gotten used to success and has never immersed itself in a complete rebuild from the ground up.

Snagging a pair of marquee stars to flank their franchise player after just one down year would be reloading in true Lakers style.

In the end, though, the decision rests with Nash. A competitor through and through, the former All-NBA performer doesn't want to go out on such a low note.

If he can find a way to remain pain-free, Nash will want to walk away from the game with his pride and dignity intact.

"I hesitate to even talk about it now because it's probably not a good time, I'm feeling a little emotional, but it's hard," Nash said.

"I'm still playing basketball and I'm still effective and I can get better physically and my game will come around the more I play."

In this instance, what's best for Steve Nash and what's best for the Lakers organization may be at cross-purposes.