Coach: We need to take care of Nash

LAS VEGAS – With the Los Angeles Lakers halfway through their eight-game preseason schedule following Thursday's 104-86 loss to the Sacramento Kings, and with Steve Nash having played only 52 total minutes so far, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni admitted his 39-year-old point guard could miss playing time all season.

"I'm not concerned," D'Antoni said when asked about Nash playing just nine minutes against the Kings before sitting out with a sore left ankle. "I think this will happen off and on all year, but he's going to give you a good season and good stuff. We have to take care of him."

D'Antoni added that Nash had difficulty getting his ankle loose during warm-ups and the two of them decided to end his night early.

Nash, who will turn 40 in February, is the league's oldest player this season, and his early preseason production has underscored that fact. Nash, who sat out the Lakers' preseason opener to rest, is averaging just 1.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 17.3 minutes in the three games since while shooting just 25 percent from the field.

"We'll see," Nash said Thursday when informed of D'Antoni's comments. "I'm hoping. Because [the ankle] has gotten better. At the start of camp, it wasn't very good at all, and through camp it did improve. I think [Thursday] was more of an unfortunate day than a real problem. It could linger, but I don't expect that to be the case. I'm hoping that through this month we can try to put it behind me. It's kind of a little bit of a dance because I need this time to prepare, but at the same time, you obviously don't want to pound the ankle to where I'm not able to function."

Nash said he cannot remember a specific play that caused the ankle injury but thinks it occurred sometime in September when the Lakers were holding voluntary scrimmages at the team's practice facility prior to training camp beginning.

"I think it was my first few days back playing," Nash said. "I don't think my ankle maybe was in a great position and I didn't realize it and I pounded on it and I woke up the next morning after playing three days in a row and I was really sore, and it's kind of persisted since. Like I said, I feel fairly confident it shouldn't be a huge issue."

Last season, injuries were a catastrophic issue for Nash and pretty much the entire Lakers roster. Nash missed 32 games during the regular season because of a broken leg, and hip and groin discomfort that stemmed from the leg injury. Nash also missed the final two games of the Lakers' playoff exit at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com last month that he "couldn't sprint" in the final weeks of the regular season because of his ailments.

Nash and D'Antoni have already discussed the possibility of the former two-time MVP sitting out a game when the Lakers play back-to-back games this upcoming season, and the point guard says he is open to the possibility but does not want to pre-emptively agree to the nights off.

"We got to maximize each player on the team and so, will maximizing me be to play every single game or will it be to pull me out once in awhile?" Nash said. "I think Steve [Blake] and Jordan [Farmar] are really good point guards, so it gives us a luxury there."

The Lakers fly to China on Friday for two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors next week. The team is listing Nash as day to day, but D'Antoni said he expects Nash to be back in the lineup when the Lakers next take the court, against the Warriors on Tuesday.

"He should be ready to go," D'Antoni said.

"We'll see how it responds and how it responds to the flight," Nash said, "but I think the fact that I got out [of the game] early enough tonight, I hope that it's not a big thing and I can play in the next few days."