Unable to Overcome Ongoing Back Issues, Steve Nash to Miss 2014-15 Season

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Unable to Overcome Ongoing Back Issues, Steve Nash to Miss 2014-15 Season
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LOS ANGELES — The latest and perhaps last setback of Steve Nash's disappointing tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers has come.   

Nash has been ruled out for the 2014-15 NBA season due to recurring nerve damage in his back, according to league sources.

The Lakers later confirmed the news.   

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 his body has simply told him that it isn't up to playing in the NBA, as much as his words have been telling people that he still loves playing and believes he can contribute if allowed.

In a statement released by the Lakers, Nash explained his trials preparing for the season: "Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now. 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." 

Last season, Nash hurt himself getting out of bed. A week ago, he hurt himself carrying his bags. 

Nash has continued to search for a way to shake the nerve issues—undertaking fanatical strengthening workouts at times and resting at others.

This is, at heart, the same person who decided he didn't want to sit out as a teenager, got a buddy to help him cut a cast off his broken arm and played in his league basketball game that night. 

He has also acknowledged wanting to collect the $9.7 million due to him for the 2014-15 season.

But Nash's decision Thursday is confirmation of how little ground he is gaining so far away from his youth with an uphill battle this steep.

Nash was selected an All-Star by the league's coaches as recently as 2012the only other All-Stars aged 38 or older are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan—prompting the Lakers to jump at the chance to land him that summer.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Steve Nash has played a total of 65 games with the Lakers since he arrived in 2012.

It is instead going down as one of the Lakers' worst deals: They haven't won a playoff game since, and they gave up first-round picks in 2013 and '15 (top-five protected) and second-round picks in '13 and '14 to the Phoenix Suns so they could pay Nash $27.9 million over three years. They also got almost nothing out of the idea that by pairing Nash with his coach in Phoenix, Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers would create a latter-day "Showtime" pick-and-roll era.

The promise of the Lakers coming together immediately with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Nash in 2012 was sidetracked in just their second game together. Nash fractured his left leg trying to defend Portland's Damian Lillard upcourt, and an array of nerve issues ensued for Nash.

As much as Nash has found he loves living in L.A., almost everything else has been a nightmare for him as a Laker. He admitted he fell into an abyss personally last season before finding a fresh perspective.

"I was in a really, really bad place last year during the winter," Nash said at the start of camp this year. "I was largely unaware of how bad I was until I got out of it. Now I realize this is my last year. There's no guarantee I'll get to play any games this year. The truth is, I have a lot of miles on my back, and a day or two into training camp, it could all be done."

Nash and Lakers executives had been optimistic about him having some degree of success based on how healthy he felt in the offseason, even with two-a-day workouts. Though Nash played just 15 games last season, hope was created by how well he played in late-summer pickup games.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
The combination of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash struggled into the playoffs, where the Lakers were swept in the first round.

The two-time NBA MVP played one exhibition game Oct. 6 but felt discomfort in the first quarter of his next one Oct. 12; he has worked out only individually since then, getting a feel for the lack of progress.

Jeremy Lin's opportunity to restart his career opens further with Nash out of the picture. Ronnie Price, 31, has been a good fit in training camp with Byron Scott's defense-intensive approach, and Price is in line for point guard minutes ahead of rookie combo guard Jordan Clarkson.

By any account, Nash's career has been incredible despite these recent years. He has persevered through a congenital condition called spondylolisthesis that involves the displacement of vertebrae in his back, and despite the fact that he wasn't initially recruited by any college basketball program.

Nash ranks first in league history in free-throw percentage (90.4). He is third with 10,335 assists, and he is one of 10 players in league history to have won consecutive NBA MVP awards.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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