“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?”
This was the question Bennie Salazar posed to Scotty Hausmann at the end of Jennifer Egan’s novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad. The novel details the lives of multiple people involved in the music industry, but the underlying point of the whole novel is how time – the “stealth goon, the one you ignore because you are so busy worrying about the goons right in front of you,” as Egan puts it – changes people.
Growing up you always want to be older. Older so you can play with the big kids in the neighborhood, older so you can drive a car, older so you can enjoy everything about being an adult. But then, in the blink of an eye, age suddenly catches up and leaves you wondering how it happens so fast.
And then at a certain point you start to wish you were young again. You start wishing that it were possible to return to an earlier time where there was less bodily pain, less worries. And all the while time is there, hovering over you, stealthily pushing you around. So you push back, keeping the goon at bay. But eventually you can’t push back the way you used to be able to, and the goon slowly starts to claim yet another victory, on its way to remaining undefeated.
So is the plight of Steve Nash, who made his NBA debut 17 years ago with the Phoenix Suns. After a few years he made his way to Dallas, where he teamed with Dirk Nowitzki. Then it was back to Phoenix, where he engineered the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, won two MVP awards and staked his claim to being the best point guard in the league. While he was awarded the most lucrative personal achievements, the NBA Finals always seemed to elude Nash. In a last effort to put the final note on his NBA resume, he went further west to join the Los Angeles Lakers with Dwight Howard. He thought he had found it last year when the Lakers constructed that impressive squad, but instead stepped unknowingly into an active volcano, on the verge of exploding. Well explode it did, and the Lakers barely made the playoffs, only all that earned them was a beating from Nash’s old nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs.
All of which brings us to this year. The Lakers aren’t their usual selves, and neither is Nash. At 4-7, the Lakers are on their way to a rare lottery appearance. As for Nash, he turns 40 in February, and everyone, including Nash himself, knows the end is near.
He’s only played in 6 games so far this season, and hasn’t played since last Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves due to pain in his back. It seems as if Nash has been dealing with back issues nearly his whole career, but when he was younger his body healed faster, he could play through the pain and stiffness.
But now? 39 year-olds don’t heal the same way people in their mid-20s do, and the problems are getting worse. According to the Los Angeles Times, Nash is dealing with “nerve pain in his back and hamstring.”
The aging point guard had this to say last Sunday after the loss to the T’Wolves.
“I hesitate to even talk about it now because it’s probably not a good time, I’m feeling a little emotional, but it’s hard,” Nash said. “I really want to play and I really want to play the way I’m accustomed to playing, and to be so limited is frustrating. And also to not know where a clean-ish bill of health is is a little daunting too.”
“The pain is always there, it’s not as much of a concern,” said Nash, who finished with two points and three assists. “It’s just when you’re so limited and you’re limping, you’re trying to get off your left leg the whole time, then you just can’t be effective and you’re making it worse. I tried to play through it, but to what diminishing returns.”
“I’m trying to play through it, but at the same time be smart and overcome what I can,” he said. “But it’s taken a bit of a turn for the worse, and I’m just going to see the [doctor] tomorrow and see what he advises.”
Brutal. Just brutal.
Everyone reaches a point when they can no longer do what they love at the level they wish – the time when the goon’s constant nagging and pushing starts to win – but most people don’t have to go through it publicly. Of course that’s part of the deal when you’re playing professional sports, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Whether he ends up coming back this year or not – and he likely will – Nash’s career is coming to a close. He’s one of the best point guards to ever play the game, but as sad as it may be to think about this fact, everyone’s time comes to an end.
Because time is a goon, and it pushes around everyone, even Steve Nash.