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Lakers' Steve Nash is encouraged about health

Lakers' Steve Nash is encouraged about health
Lakers guard Steve Nash stretches his back out during the first half of a preseason game Monday in San Diego against the Denver Nuggets. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

Steve Nash's back didn't hurt, he had nicely efficient stats and the Lakers were entirely justified in giving up two first-round picks and two second-round picks to Phoenix.

Right.

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Not even Nash would say that, the maligned two-time most valuable player unable to catch a break since landing with the Lakers two years ago.

He wouldn't want the secret leaked, but he looked fine Monday in the Lakers' exhibition opener, putting together 11 points and five assists in 20 minutes against Denver.

No relieved exhale from him. No smile of wonderment. He has traveled this road too many times since signing a three-year, $28-million contract with the Lakers.

"It's been a crazy drive for me," he said. "Maybe I'm starting to get to the other side of it … but it's very tenuous. It's such a monster to me over the last 18 months or two years that I'm not conceding anything to that beast."

He has caught plenty of time in the trainer's room, playing 50 games in 2012-13 and only 15 last season, felled by recurring nerve damage in his back last season, an issue that also leads to weakness in his hamstrings.

Nash, 40, can't control when the back and hamstring issue flares up. He could wake up any day now and need to sit out a week. Or, worse for him, a month.

But for now, "Just to be out there and feel pretty free is nice," Nash said.

Julius Randle needs running?

Julius Randle had a solid rookie debut, scoring 10 points with eight rebounds in the Lakers' 98-95 victory over Denver.

Although Coach Byron Scott was happy with some of what Randle accomplished, Scott would like to see more from him.

"He's got to do a better job of setting screens," Scott said. "He's got to do a better job of getting up and down the floor. He does that in spurts.

"The biggest thing with him right now is that he has to get in better shape. He's in good shape but he has to get in great shape."

Scott has held a vigorous training camp, pushing players to try to make the Lakers one of the best-conditioned teams in the league.

"When you're not in great shape and you get tired, you lose focus, it's that simple," Scott said. "It's just a matter of getting him in great shape."

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During the summer, the Lakers held Randle back slightly to make sure an old high school foot injury was fully healed.

He felt comfortable in his first game, which he said was a lot easier than last week at Lakers training camp.

"Practice is way, way harder," Randle said.

The Lakers had a light practice Tuesday, primarily watching video. Afterward, Randle and the team's young players (along with veteran Ronnie Price) walked through the team's offense. The Lakers' next exhibition game is Thursday against Golden State at Staples Center.

Etc.

Wesley Johnson suffered a minor left knee injury against Denver but was expected to go through a full-contact practice Wednesday, the Lakers said.

He started at small forward Monday and had nine points in 24 minutes.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.

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