Steve Nash closing in on return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash went through his first full-contact practice without any setbacks to his broken left leg on Thursday.

But Nash said "it's more likely" he'll return to the court on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks than Saturday against Golden State.

"There's no plan. I just want to get through today, see how I feel in the morning," Nash said. "If I'm able to practice (Friday), see how I feel Saturday, we'll just see how it goes. But I think Christmas is probably the most realistic."

Nash has been out since suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left leg on Halloween. Initially, the Lakers estimated he'd be out anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on how the fracture healed. If he returns Saturday or Tuesday, it would be nearly eight weeks from the injury.

As frustrated as he has grown with the process, Nash is being mindful not to rush back too soon because a reinjury could knock him out for much longer than he's already missed.

"I think the tendency is to rush back, but you definitely have to be careful," he said. "I don't want to rush back for two games and then be out for another extended period of time."

Coach Mike D'Antoni joked upon taking the Lakers' job in mid-November that he'd start feeling better from his knee surgery when Nash, the point guard he watched win two MVP awards while both were with the Phoenix Suns, started feeling better. At the time, it was assumed Nash was close to returning.

Now, finally, the time is near.

"Whatever day he returns will be Christmas, so I guess there's that," D'Antoni said jokingly.

"He looked good today. Real good. You never know how he wakes up. But the first step was positive. He looks good on the floor. He said he felt good. We'll see if he can do it again tomorrow and keep building from there."

The Lakers have struggled mightily in Nash's absence. They beat lowly Charlotte on Tuesday to improve to 12-14 on the season and still sit 12th in the Western Conference.

Will Nash's return be a turning point?

"I hope it's a turning point because we're not very good right now. Something better turn," D'Antoni said. "He's the best at it. Not taking anything away from anyone else, but when you're the best at something, it's going to run smoothly. Confidence builds up and you realize, 'Oh, that's why he wants me in that position' and then it works and it becomes a lot easier.' "