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To Stretch Or Not To Stretch: Steve Nash

The Lakers will face some tough choices this upcoming offseason, including whether to utilize the NBA’s Stretch provision on Steve Nash.

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Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash is not a quitter and it’s clear that the 18-year NBA veteran isn’t ready to give up his dream of returning to form on the basketball court. He wants to get healthy and become a significant contributor again, but whether that is possible remains to be seen.

Likely sidelined for all but just 10 games this season, following what was also a disastrous and injury-riddled 2012-13, Nash has to be respected and credited for his resolve and drive, given what has been an egregious two-year run of futility he’s been on. Despite everything he has been through, he’s not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

“I want to come back (next year),” Nash recently told a group of L.A. media. “For sure.”

When the news of Nash’s acquisition broke on Independence Day 2012, no one could have imagined things would go this poorly for the Lakers during his stint in purple and gold. In fact, without rehashing a belabored story in its entirety, the perceived ‘risk’ associated with year three of the contract (2014-15) for what will be a 41-year-old point guard was deemed worthy with the presumed advantage over the first two seasons.

Both injuries and circumstances have completely eliminated any semblance of the anticipated rewards, as you’d be hard-pressed to find an NBA observer who hasn’t at least considered the notion of the Lakers utilizing the NBA’s Stretch provision during the offseason on the injured veteran.

Nash, himself, sure has.

http://youtu.be/bo7f93MlvEE

Watching the footage from Grantland.com,  it’s clear that Nash has considered this possibility, and perhaps even understands that it’s inevitable. Essentially, if the Lakers were to utilize the provision on Nash, they would effectively be cutting him this summer and have the ability to divide his $9.7 million for 2014-15 over the next three years for cap relief in the meantime. The eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP is merely attempting to delay this process by any means, just as any of us would in his particular situation.

That’s a statement that might disappoint some of the more frustrated and less patient among Lakers fans, but that doesn’t make it any less of the reality. The sobering moment when Nash is discussing the possibility and what he even seems to describe as a likelihood of being a candidate for the provision with agent Bill Duffy illustrates the ‘everyday human’ aspect of the story we often forget about when debating whether a player should hang up his sneakers for the final time.

Cap relief and the ability to simply “move on” aside, there is also an alternative way to view these circumstances that could potentially appease all parties. If the Lakers determine the 2014 crop of potential FA are not what they would prefer to spend the bulk of their money on, they could just as easily decide to re-tool for the upcoming season with the hopes that a healthy Kobe Bryant can at least restore a bit of order while additional reinforcement options (e.g., Kevin Love) become available.

By simply holding onto Nash for the remainder of his contract, they would not only take the entire financial hit at once, but it would also permit Nash to at least give it one more shot in Los Angeles. While the odds of even a relatively healthy return are seemingly about as long as the odds of his Lakers returning to ‘championship form’ anytime soon, much like fans of the team remaining steadfast in their support for the organization, Nash is understandably clutching onto a personal belief like any other ultra-competitor would.

General manager Mitch Kupchak has went on record saying the decision regarding the future actually belongs to and depends upon Nash. Reportedly, they will continue to monitor his progress and condition over the next few months before determining the best course of action.

At this point, the organization has the ability to take the ‘wait and see’ approach, as a decision about whether to invoke the Stretch provision doesn’t have to be made until after the free agency period (July) has commenced. Without an apparent title anywhere near their immediate horizon, it appears the front office plans to wisely allow the draft process to be completed and the actual free agent market to materialize.

Needless to say, along with the relatively uncharted territory of being lottery-bound, at least these Lakers finally have options and some rare cap space to work with in the offseason. They’ll need it, just as they’ll need a few breaks to go their way in order to speed up the rebuilding process.

Nash simply wants to be a part of that, and nobody can fault him for that.

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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