Don't expect any certainty to swirl around Steve Nash when he eventually makes his return to the Los Angeles Lakers' rotation. Instead, we're going to continue wallowing in questions until the 39-year-old point guard provides some answers with his play.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina, Nash is practicing with the Lakers, but his official return date is still unknown. It's doubtful that he'll suit up against the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 6, and anything beyond that is still up in the air.
But there are more questions than when he'll return, especially after Pau Gasol's cryptic statement about his form in practice:
Thanks for nothing, Gasol.
Pau Gasol said Kobe looked "really good" at practice. How about Nash? Pau: "I can't say he looked as good as Kobe"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 3, 2013
I suppose we'll just have to tackle the big questions ourselves.
Can He Stay Healthy?
There's no guarantee that he will remain in the lineup for the rest of the season, and the possibility of re-injury is strong. But don't take my word for it; see what the point guard had to say:
Believe it or not, this is the first response to the tweet:
Steve Nash: "If I race to come back Friday and it’s not quite right, I could be out forever or for months"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 3, 2013
Yea for reading comprehension?
@mcten lets go nash...lets play friday— Nba Playa 007 (@NBAPlayaLAL) December 3, 2013
It's important that we let Nash do what is best for Nash, even if that means taking a longer time to recover from the initial injury. There should be no pressure on him to make a premature return.
Nash has always been hampered by nagging injuries. While he has a knack for playing through minor ailments, this back injury isn't something new that surfaced this season. Instead, he's been playing through the malady for years.
In short, Nash’s back - among other ailments - is susceptible to further damage if he doesn’t get it to a certain point of strength.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 3, 2013
If you can remember all the way back to 2004, you might recall that Nash was still a member of the Dallas Mavericks. While he would go on to play for the Phoenix Suns and win MVP multiple times, he only had an opportunity to run the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense in the desert because Mark Cuban was scared of his back issues.
The Dallas owner had been concerned that Nash would break down, as chronic pain had been already creeping into the daily scouting report. Well, that was just about a decade ago.
Nash is 39 years old, making him the oldest player in the NBA. He'll hit the dreaded 40-year milestone during the season, as will Derek Fisher, although Fish is a few months younger. That may be the first time "younger" has ever been used to describe the current Oklahoma City Thunder floor general.
It's not strange to think that Nash's body is breaking down. After all, it's common for normal 40-year-olds, much less guys with four decades under their belt who have spent the vast majority playing a physical sport.
Remember this play?
Those are also questions that can't be answered. It's luck of the draw whether he experiences a setback, and only he knows how much discomfort he can tolerate on a nightly basis.
We can all keep our fingers crossed and hope that the future Hall of Famer is able to remain on the court for the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign, but it would be foolish to bet on him doing so.
Will He Start?
As relayed by the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina, the 39-year-old floor general said, "I’ll do whatever I can to help the team” upon being asked whether or not he'd be OK coming off the bench. Nash continued, “But the first thing I have to do is try get myself in a position where I can sustain the demands of the game. Right now my back is susceptible to those things.”
Unfortunately for those who would like to hear the point guard's name echo through the rafters of the Staples Center as the starters are announced for the Lake Show, accepting a bench role is the best thing he can do to help the team.
Blake has started all 18 of his appearances, and he's averaging 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent behind the three-point arc and 81.8 percent at the charity stripe.
Steve Nash did not scrimmage with the first unit today. Blake remains the starter for the time being.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 3, 2013
This isn't going to change when Nash is available.
In the interest of keeping the elder point guard as healthy and effective as possible, it's best if he plays a more limited role and lets Blake do the heavy lifting. Take it day by day, and if Nash is starting to show flashes of his old self off the pine, then it's time for the head coach to feed him more minutes.
Can He Be Effective?
Take a look at the progression of his per-game stats over the past three seasons, courtesy of Basketball Reference:
Does he use an uptempo pace like Nash ran in Phoenix? Does he turn Nash into a spot-up shooter? Does he sit back, stroke his mustache and just let Nash figure it out?
Something tells me that you and I have just as much a clue as MDA does.
Will Nash be effective when he returns?
Based on the way that his numbers have trended, the answer is that he's running on fumes. The Canadian floor general hasn't been highly effective for a few years now, and that doesn't bode well for his ability to recover from this latest injury and regain his former level of play.
Sad as it is to say, we've seen the last of prime Nash.
I don't want to leave you in a state of depression, so let's finish things off on a positive note with a highlight reel from Nash's best days, thanks to Bleacher Report's Joel Cordes. If you're offended by sporadic adult language, go ahead and mute your computer: