Asked about Nash's availability the rest of the way, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni offered a melancholy response, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:
Mike D'Antoni says he "doubts" Steve Nash plays again this season, but wouldn't rule him out— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 3, 2014
Per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, D'Antoni did admit that Nash's status is impacted by factors other than health:
Will Steve Nash return this season? "I doubt it," D'Antoni said. Wants minutes to go to younger guards, plus Nash still not feeling right.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 3, 2014
Despite what D'Antoni says, though, health has to be the driving force behind Nash's continued absence. Nerve issues have limited him to just 10 games this season, and 60 over the last two.
Nash, if healthy, should also be part of the talent evaluation D'Antoni references. While on the wrong side of 40, he is under contract for $9.7 million next season. If he was healthy enough to play, the Lakers need him to play, if only to see how much he has left.
For whatever it's worth, Nash wouldn't rule out a return this year, according to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina:
Steve Nash on prospects of returning: "We’ll see. I couldn’t really make a prediction. If I get a chance, it’ll be great."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 3, 2014
Assuming Nash doesn't play this season, one has to imagine the Lakers explore using the stretch provision on him this summer. They're slated to have massive cap space over the offseason, and if Nash proves to be essentially dead weight, general manager Mitch Kupchak will want to increase Los Angeles' financial flexibility ahead of free agency.
At this point, even if Nash were to return, there's little he can do to sway Los Angeles' decision. The Lakers have only 23 games remaining, which is hardly enough time for Nash to reverse the stigma that's been dogging him since last season.
Though bordering on tragic, this isn't completely unexpected.
As Nash, himself, puts it in that episode:
Every athlete, when they lose their skill, they lose a big part of themselves, a part that they’ve built their life around, that has been a huge part of their purpose, their self esteem, identity. So when the skill, or ability goes, it’s like there’s been a death.
Coming to grips with regression and the inevitable end is difficult for a floor general who was once extolled for his durability and outright defiance of Father Time.
When he joined the Lakers, he was a fountain of youth the team expected to direct them toward contention. Instead, he's been in and out of the lineup, losing a battle he used to win regularly.
What comes next is anyone's guess. Not even Nash knows what's in store for him beyond this season.
"So on the one hand, I’m lucky I’ve gotten the better part of 18 years of it," he said in the video. "On the other hand, it’ll never be the same again."
Nor is it certain Nash will ever play again.
*Salary information via ShamSports.