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Steve Nash says he feels as good as he has since 2012 leg fracture

Pro BasketballSteve NashLos Angeles LakersPhiladelphia 76ersKobe BryantCleveland Cavaliers

Steve Nash finally returned to the Lakers' lineup Tuesday in a loss to the Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

After sitting out a victory over the Cavaliers in Cleveland the following night, Nash celebrated his 40th birthday with a season-high 19 points in a win over the 76ers in Philadelphia.

"To be able to just be back out there for two games -- yeah, I'm rusty, I'm not quite in game shape yet -- but to be moving freely and be able to do things you're accustomed to doing out there, it just makes the game a lot more fun," Nash said after practice Saturday.

Nash fractured a bone in his leg in November 2012 during the second game of last season. After sitting out until late December, he played 50 regular-season games before back and hamstring issues forced him out late in the season.

"There were times last year when I think I started to play pretty well, especially the month before I got hurt," Nash said. "I was kind of working around my body a little bit and was having some success.

"This is about as good as I've felt since before I broke my leg."

Lingering issues stemming from an impinged nerve root in his back had kept him sidelined this season since early November.  He spent a significant amount of time in Vancouver, rehabbing and training in the hope he'd be able to get back to health.

"I love the game," Nash said. "I'm going to just be diligent and be thankful for every minute I get out there -- hopefully as many as I can out there, moving freely."

The Lakers are still going to pace Nash, sitting him when they play on consecutive nights.  The nerve issue could still flare back up, but Nash has exceeded initial expectations since his return.

"I feel pretty good. I feel the neck. I feel the back. I feel the hamstring. But they're all in a pretty manageable place," he said.

Nash has played in only eight games this season, averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 assists.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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