SACRAMENTO — What Steve Nash described as "an obviously pretty horrible 13 months for me" could be nearing an end for the veteran point guard.
"I might not be able to play anymore, I might have to yo-yo it or I might be able to play the rest of the way," Nash said Friday of his return from nerve irritation in his back that has sidelined him since Nov. 10 as well as an assortment of injuries that have bothered him since he broke his leg early last season.
Nash, 39, said earlier in the week he had hoped to play Friday against the Sacramento Kings but decided to take a more conservative approach to ensure he wouldn't "risk this kind of yo-yo season" in which he vacillates between playing and sitting out.
"The bottom line is, we don't know how much I can sustain," Nash said. "There's a lot of stuff going on back there, but I've worked really hard and made a lot of improvement and I'm gaining confidence I can play again. We'll see how realistic that is to sustain or survive the demands of a game."
Nash said he was unsure whether he could play Sunday against Toronto.
More space around the basket was supposed to represent the final frontier for center Pau Gasol's resurgence. Instead, he's seemed mostly lost in space.
Before facing Sacramento on Friday he had largely turned into a mid-range jump shooter, taking as many shots from 15 to 19 feet as he had from within five feet of the basket.
Some might say that's not the best use of his 7 feet.
"You would always want to take high-percentage shots, and I would love to get myself a little closer to the paint because I obviously would be more effective then and my shot percentage would probably go up," said Gasol, who entered Friday's game shooting a career-low 41.9% "So part of it is me settling for that jumper and part of it is not getting enough in the paint regardless of the play calls or anything else."
The departure of Dwight Howard was supposed to give Gasol more room to operate down low, but he has often lingered on the perimeter after setting screens instead of rolling toward the basket. Before Friday, Gasol had taken only 27.5% of his shots from within five feet, as opposed to the 39.0% of his shots he had taken from that distance last season.
"Well, he always can move closer to the basket," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's on him. He needs to pick and dive and then we need to get the ball in to him. He's got to go where he feels comfortable. We're OK wherever that is."
There was a slight uptick in shots taken from five to nine feet (representing 23.3% of his shots this season, as opposed to 15.2% last season) and from 10-14 feet (12.0% this season versus 9.0% last season).
Then there's that 15-19-foot range, which has represented 27.5% of his shots this season versus 25.6% last season.
"He's a good enough player where he's inside-outside," D'Antoni said, "but there's no limitations [where we say], 'Please don't go in there.' There's none of that. So he needs to go in there."
Reserve Chris Kaman experienced back spasms Friday and was not available against the Kings.email@example.com
Helene Elliott contributed to this report from Los Angeles