Lakers' Steve Nash probably will play backup role to Jeremy Lin

Lakers' Steve Nash probably will play backup role to Jeremy Lin
Lakers guard Steve Nash, center, puts up a shot in front of teammate Robert Sacre during a preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Steve Nash has had an incredible career, but the two-time MVP might have to endure a new role in what is probably his final NBA season.

Coming off the bench as a backup.


Lakers Coach Byron Scott indicated Jeremy Lin could become the starting point guard because of Nash's recurring back problems, a switch that made sense because of Nash's on-again, off-again availability.

Nash played well in the Lakers' exhibition opener but sat out their second game and pulled himself out of their third exhibition at halftime because he didn't feel right.

Nash, who turns 41 in February, played only 15 games last season and is in the last year of a three-year, $28-million contract. He averaged 6.8 assists and 5.7 assists last season.

Scott said he hadn't officially decided on a permanent switch but appeared to lean toward Lin for continuity's sake.

"I have no doubt in my mind that if I went to Steve and said tomorrow, 'You know what, I'm going to start Jeremy and the games that you're available, we're going bring you off the bench,' he's such a professional that I don't think it would be a problem whatsoever," Scott said Tuesday.

Nash was not available for comment after the Lakers practiced but he would not fight the switch, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Either way, the Lakers planned to sit him for about one-fourth of their games throughout the regular season.

Lin probably won't play in Thursday's exhibition against Utah because of a sprained ankle but should be ready Sunday for the Lakers' fifth preseason game out of eight.

Lin said he would "no question" like to start but had a hard time articulating his thoughts on it, mainly because he respected Nash while watching NBA games as a teenager, long before he actually began playing in them.

"Just talking to him, he wants to be healthy, he wants to enjoy what is probably his last year and I would want them for him as well," Lin said. "But at the end of the day, whatever position [Scott] calls me to, or whatever it is, I'm going to do my best."

Kobe talks money

Kobe Bryant said he was grateful the Lakers went against the trend of some other franchises that have convinced some of their stars to take contracts below market value.

"I'm one of the luckiest basketball players in the league because I got very fortunate to be with an organization that takes care of its players," said Bryant, who signed a well-scrutinized two-year, $48.5-million contract extension last November to stay with the Lakers. "I think it speaks volumes not only to me and to the city, but to other players around the league as well. When you look around at some of the other owners that try to milk their players or get rid of them or discard them… this organization doesn't do that."

Bryant also wondered whether there would be a lockout in coming years even though the NBA just agreed to a broadcasting deal worth $24 billion with the parent companies of TNT, ABC and ESPN.

"It's very easy to look at the elite players around the league and talk about the amount of money they get paid," Bryant said. "But we don't look at what the owners get paid, or how much revenue they generate off the backs of these players.


"Now you have a TV deal that comes out and you look at it almost being up a billion dollars from the previous one. It's going to be interesting to see what happens in this next labor agreement.... I'm sure they'll try to lock us out again, and harden the cap even more."

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Twitter: @EricPincus

Bresnahan is a Times staff writer. Pincus is a Times correspondent.