For the Lakers’ Steve Nash, Portland is where it all began

PORTLAND, Ore. — If you had to trace the arc of Steve Nash’s season of disappointment, you would start here.

His tenure as a Laker wasn’t even a game and a half old when Portland’s Damian Lillard kneed the veteran point guard in the left leg on Halloween night, giving Nash’s teammates a major scare.

Nash was expected to miss only about a week because of a small fracture in his left leg but in fact sat out nearly two months after developing nerve damage.


It was emblematic of a season of unforeseen complications that preceded Nash’s return to the Rose Garden on Wednesday night.

A lot has changed since Oct. 31 for the Lakers, who switched coaches and have gone from presumed NBA Finals contenders to a team that would be pleased to assume the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Some things haven’t changed since the days immediately following that Oct. 31 game. Nash was sidelined again Wednesday by hip and hamstring soreness that has forced him to miss five consecutive games.

The hamstring appears to be the bigger issue.

“When you go to use it, it grabs,” Nash said. “You let up because you feel like you’re going to tear it.”

Nash said he was unsure whether he would be able to play Friday when the Lakers host Golden State. He is also dealing with nerve issues associated with his injuries.

Nash has sat out 29 games this season, the first 24 because of the fracture in his leg. It’s the most games he has missed since being limited to 40 games in his third NBA season.

“Maybe it’s because of the freshness, but it feels the most frustrating for sure,” Nash said when asked whether this has been the most trying of his 17 NBA seasons. “If no one expected anything coming into the season, you might have said, ‘Oh, it’s tough luck, a tough year,’ but couple that with the fact that this wasn’t what we drew up and it makes it very difficult.”

Nash is averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists, falling a few ticks below his respective career averages of 14.4 and 8.5. He is on pace for his fewest assists since the 1999-2000 season, when he averaged 4.9.

The vaunted pick-and-roll partnership between Nash and Dwight Howard hasn’t materialized on a consistent basis, confounding the Lakers and their fans. Nash has also surrendered some of the point guard duties to Kobe Bryant since midseason, shifting into a hybrid shooting guard role.

Nash, 39, has two more years and about $19 million left on his contract. His first season as a Laker will go down as a colossal letdown, barring a deep playoff run.

“We should be a lot better than we are, and he’s been injured more than probably his whole career,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “So hopefully we can get in the playoffs and he can have a good run and turn that frustration into something good.”

Twitter: @latbbolch