The Lakers haven't given up on Steve Nash.
Unlike some of their followers, they're not pushing him into an early retirement.
"There's always going to be a debate but we're not going to debate it, talk about it," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday. "He's going to try to get ready, he's going to try to play and we're going to try to win. It's really simple for us. It's not real difficult."
Nash has already missed three of nine games and is out at least two more weeks because of nerve damage in his back, the latest injury to hit him since he joined the Lakers.
But should he retire?
He makes $9.3 million this season and $9.7 million next season. If he's found physically unable to play by Lakers back specialist Robert Watkins, Nash still receives full compensation.
The NBA would then do its due diligence, sending a league-appointed physician to verify the findings of Lakers doctors.
If the league signed off, the final year of Nash's contract would be completely removed from the Lakers' salary cap — as long as he played in fewer than 10 games this season.
The Lakers aren't thinking that way. Neither is Nash. Plus, medical retirements are rare in the NBA.
Portland forward Darius Miles retired in 2008 for medical reasons, though a technicality prevented the team from receiving cap relief when he tried to rejoin the league the following season.
Portland didn't take any chances when guard Brandon Roy's knees almost forced him to quit with $63 million left on his contract. Instead of waiting for medical retirement, the Trail Blazers waived him in 2011 via their one-time amnesty clause. The franchise still had to pay Roy but gained salary-cap and luxury-tax relief.
Roy eventually returned to the league last season with Minnesota, but his knees couldn't hold up and he retired a second time.
The New York Knicks received financial relief when Cuttino Mobley "retired" in 2010 because of a heart issue, although Mobley in turn sued the team, disagreeing with the medical assessment.
The Lakers have nearly cleared their books for next summer: Nash, Robert Sacre ($915,243) and Nick Young ($1.2-million player option) are the only ones with guaranteed contracts.
Even if the NBA didn't approve a Nash retirement, the Lakers could use their "stretch provision" to waive him next summer and spread out his final $9.7 million over three seasons.
For now, Nash will work to return to the court, with medical retirement an option only if he is truly unable to make it back.
"Steve will just have to get back as soon as he can and then we'll see where we are," D'Antoni said.
Pincus is a Times correspondent.