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Steve Nash is ‘running on empty’ with Lakers

I love Steve Nash.

You know the kind of man crush love that comes when you admire/respect/cherish an athlete the way me and many others in this town feel about the Nash Rambler. One of the fondest memories of my daughter’s childhood was getting to be a ball girl for the Suns and warming up Steve Nash. She didn’t do much besides grab rebounds and toss him the ball but for a young teenage girl to get that close to a two-time NBA MVP when the Suns were the talk of the town and the league — that is something she will never forget.

Nash was awesome in the community. I just got a Lakers jersey from him for our charity radiothon next month. He was always giving back. He even made me feel a little selfish for driving a big SUV instead of a Prius. (Okay — maybe that’s a stretch, but I am more energy conscious because of him even if he never took a family picture with the Gambadoros.)

And damn was Nash great on the court. And that’s the sad part — the “was”. Unfortunately, due to age — he is the oldest point guard in the NBA at 39 — and injuries — he is out at least the next two weeks because of a back injury — his career is over. He may not want to admit it just yet. That’s the pride, the competitive nature of one of the greatest competitors this town has ever seen.

But it’s over.

He simply can’t play the game at a high level anymore. And that’s alright. Nash isn’t the first Hall of Fame athlete to not know when to call it quits.

Let’s go back in time. About 16 months ago when I broke the news that Nash was traded to the Lakers for two first-round picks and two second-round picks. He was going to L.A. so he could 1) be close to his children 2) team up with Kobe and chase that elusive ring and 3) get paid as the Lakers gave him a three-year, $28 million dollar deal.

Sure it sucked to have Nash in the jersey of the hated Lakers. It sucked thinking about him playing against the Suns in that awful yellow and purple jersey. Especially after he told the Suns fan base that he would have a hard time ever playing for the hated enemy.

But for the most part, we forgave him. He meant way too much to the Suns organization to have the relationship end bitterly. The Suns were moving on and rebuilding and Nash wasn’t a part of the future. We wished him well, but not his team.

In his last season with Phoenix, he played in 62 games and averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists. The year before, he averaged 14.7 points and 11.4 assists in 75 games. The year before that, 16.5 points and 11 assists in 81 games. Little did we all know that that was the last we would see of Nash being a great player.

His first season in Los Angeles was a disaster. He played in only 50 games and averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists, his lowest assist total since the 90s. This season he was battling nagging injuries to his neck and ankle in the preseason. He missed two games because he can’t play in back-to-back contests. And now after averaging 6.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds in five games, he is out again with a back injury that is leading to other injuries.

He is old and broken down and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to call it a career and allow the Lakers to move on. Nash has one more year left on his contract and players rarely walk away from guaranteed money. But you can bet the Lakers wouldn’t try to talk him out of retirement if he wanted to walk away.

The one good thing for Suns fans is that Nash is breaking down on somebody else’s dime and he is a shell of his former self in a different uniform. He is Willie Mays with the Mets, Patrick Ewing with Seattle, Emmitt Smith with the Cardinals and Steve Carlton with the Twins. We don’t have to see the struggles. We get to remember the good times. We got to see Nash play at a high level the entire time he was here. His gas tank may have been on a 1/8 of a tank in that last season in Phoenix, but it was still moving along at 75 mph on the highway.

Now he is looking back as the years gone by like so many summer fields; looking around for the friends that he used to turn to pull him through; loving to stick around but running behind.

Steve Nash is running on empty. And I, for one, am sad to see it.