The Black Mamba is slowly working himself into shape, and this past weekend’s trip to the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, CA is the clearest sign yet that Kobe Bryant could be back on the court sooner, rather than later. But he might not be joined by beat up point guard Steve Nash, who is reportedly mulling retirement.
Bryant was given full medical clearance to return this past weekend, and he was on the practice court on Saturday where he participated in contact drills, shooting and strategy sessions. But as backup point guard Steve Blake told Mike Bresnahan at the Los Angeles Times, it “turned into 100% real fast. And Kobe was part of it.”
Bryant’s return is great news for a Lakers team that’s only won a single game on the road during a 5-7 start. But Bryant is happy it’s not the playoffs. If it were, he’d be playing, though his effectiveness would surely be limited:
“The fadeaway still works, the ball-handling and being able to post,” [Kobe] said. “Those are things that I can do right now. But it’s not the playoffs, thank God.”
“If it was a playoff game tonight, I could play,” Bryant said. “I don’t know how effective I’d be, but I would play.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was a little more tepid about Mamba’s full-time return, telling the Los Angeles Daily News‘ Mark Medina yesterday, “You’re dealing with if he’s sore today or if there’s a setback tomorrow. We need to be cautious. We just better be cool and chill out a bit.”
The Lakers will leave it to Bryant to see how far he wants to push himself in full-time practice starting today.
Meanwhile, Peter Vecsey sent a tweet out last night that could be a harbinger of doom for Lakers fans hoping to see Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol all healthy and on the court this season:
I'm hearing Nash's pain is forcing him 2 seriously consider calling it a career. He'd still get $ this yr & next & LA'd get cap relief next
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) November 19, 2013
Despite the tweet, Nash told CBS Sports’ Ken Berger less than two weeks ago that he’d like to play out the remaining two years he still has on his contract with the Lakers:
“I don’t think so,” Nash said, when asked if he could see himself retiring before next season. “I still feel like I’ve got a lot of life left without basketball so I’m going to try to enjoy it and make the most of these last 18-20 months, whatever it is.”
If Nash were to retire, he’d still collect on $19 million he has remaining over the last two years of his deal. However, the Lakers are looking to make a splash in free agency next summer, and a medical retirement, as detailed by the Los Angeles Times‘ Eric Pincus last week, would absolve the Lakers of Nash’s ensuing cap hit, while still getting the 39-year-old his money.
In order to get Nash’s contract off the books this season and next, via forced retirement, Nash would have to play fewer than 10 games this season (so far he’s played in six). Also, Lakers’ Dr. Robert Watkins would have to conclude — following a thorough examination of Nash’s back — that any additional effort by Nash would be considered a “medically unacceptable risk.”
Then the NBA would have to do their own tests in order to clear Nash’s forced retirement. More likely, Nash works hard to get back on the floor this season, and makes a decision over the summer whether his back problems will end his career a year earlier than he expected.
What do you think?
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