It’s safe to say that the past two seasons haven’t gone the way that Steve Nash or the Los Angeles Lakers had hoped for. The Lakers entered last season with title hopes, only to struggle to land the West’s seventh seed and get swept out of the first round by the Spurs. This year has been even worse since LA is currently tied with Utah for the West’s worst record at 22-44. Nash has rarely been on the court for these struggles either since he’s played in just 65 of a possible 164 regular season games the past two seasons.
This total won’t go up either because, after playing just 10 games this year, Nash will sit out the rest of the 2013-14 campaign due to leg and back injuries. At 40 years old and stuck in the second year of a three-year contract with a team going nowhere, one might think that the two-time MVP would consider retirement. However, retiring is the furthest thing from Nash’s mind right now.
In an interview/documentary with ESPN’s Grantland, which is about as candid as you can get, Nash flat-out admitted that he’s sticking with the Lakers for one more season so that he can get the remainder of his deal. Responding to all of the Lakers fans who’ve been bashing him for continuing to play, Nash told Grantland, “It’s just a reality, I’m not going to retire because, you know, I want the money. It’s honest.”
Signed prior to the 2012-13 season, Nash’s three-year contract gives him $27.9 million – $8.9 million last season, $9.3 million this year, and $9.7 million for the 2014-15 campaign. So yea, there’s definitely some motivation for Nash to play one more season and collect on nearly $10 million more before heading off into retirement.
Of course, continuing to play could have negative implications on how people view Nash’s career when he retires – at least in the minds of Lakers fans. But you also have to consider that the 8-time All-Star is human and he’s got a right to keep playing basketball. “We want honest athletes but at the same time you know you’re going to have people out there who are like, ‘Oh man, he’s so greedy, he’s already made X amount of money in his career and he’s got to take this last little bit,” Nash said in response to his critics. “Yes, I do. I have to take this last little bit. I’m sorry if that is frustrating to some. But if they were in my shoes they would do exactly the same thing. I don’t believe for a minute that they wouldn’t.”
It’s also worth mentioning in all of this is that Nash didn’t suddenly become a greedy money hoarder, looking for one final big payday at the expense of his last team. As the 3-part Grantland documentary shows, he’s working hard to rehab his back and knee in an effort to play well next season. From hitting the weight room to doing yoga on the beach, the storied point guard isn’t just trying to be a leech on the Lakers organization. He said as much with the following excerpt:
While I’m not willing to retire and give up that last year of my contract, I’m also not willing to sit back and say ‘Yeah, I don’t quite feel it today’ and ‘Yeah, I don’t quite feel it’ the next day and so on and so forth until I’m forgotten about and the contract is over. But that’s just not me. I still love the game enough. I still love the fight and want to do everything I can to get back out there. That is a real, genuine affection for this game that I have.
One of the last things that Nash discussed was how he doesn’t want to hold the organization back or prevent LA from evaluating younger players during this meaningless season. Now that he’s officially sidelined for the rest of the year, he certainly won’t be standing in anybody’s way.
It’s hard to see Nash making a huge impact next season, especially the way this year has gone, with him averaging 7.6 PPG, 4.7 APG and shooting just 36% in 10 appearances. This definitely isn’t the same guy who fueled nearly unstoppable offenses during lengthy stints with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.
But even if Nash fails miserably to rekindle any sort of magic in his last year with the Lakers, he’ll at least retire with some outstanding numbers. The Canadian boasts career averages of 14.3 PPG, 8.5 APG, 90.4% free-throw shooting and 42.8% three-point shooting. Regardless of how salty LA fans may be about him sticking out the last season of a guaranteed contract, you can’t deny Nash’s career-long success. And it’s sure to land him a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame someday.