PORTLAND, Ore. — There was a gust of certainty Monday, a rarity in one of the most uneasy seasons in Lakers history.
Steve Nash clearly wants to return next season.
"I want to come back for sure," he said Monday.
It's a longshot he'll even be back this season from recurring back soreness, but he's already looking to the future, where he's scheduled to earn $9.7 million in 2014-15 as the final part of a three-year, $28-million contract.
The Lakers have until Sept. 1 to determine whether they want to waive Nash via the "stretch provision," in which his salary is spread out over the next three years. Or they can bring him back for one more season and try to play him while paying him.
There's also a small chance Nash obtains a medical retirement from the NBA during the off-season, in which case the Lakers still have to pay him but his salary does not count toward the cap.
Nash has recurring nerve damage in his back that sidelined him almost three months earlier this season. The nerve irritation starts in the back and presents itself in his hamstrings, making it feel as if they're strained or pulled.
Nash, who turned 40 on Feb. 7, was enlightened when he had 19 points and five assists against Philadelphia on his birthday.
But he's averaging only 7.6 points and 4.7 assists in 10 games.
"When you look at an 18-year career, and like, one game against Philly?" he said. "But it meant so much to me just to say, 'OK, I showed I can do it still. Can I sustain it?' And I haven't been able to prove that yet.
"On one hand, it was extremely rewarding because it was [after] 10 months of pounding my head against the wall…. But then on the other hand, it was frustrating because it was right there and you take a knee on that old fracture and nerve root… it shows how tenuous it all is."
Nash reinjured his back in the Lakers' next game after Philadelphia. He played one more game after that but left at halftime and hasn't returned since then.
He did some light shooting the last few days but ruled out practicing with the team this week.
If he returned this season, he didn't mind being a backup, he said. Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar have split time at point guard in recent games.
"I'm totally up for whatever they want to do," Nash said.
Xavier Henry was 0 for 2 Monday in the Lakers' 107-106 victory against Portland, his first NBA action since missing 28 games because of a bone bruise and cartilage abnormalities in his right knee.
Henry's first two shots were blocked out of bounds and he played five minutes.
He spent two games with the Lakers' Development League affiliate last week and still needed to get in game shape after not playing since Dec. 29.
He was averaging 10.1 points and 21.8 minutes before Monday.
Young still out
Nick Young said he would return next week for the Lakers' two-game trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
He has sat out 10 of the last 11 games because of knee soreness and is the Lakers' second-leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times