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Steve Nash picks up 11 assists off the bench in return to action for the Lakers

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The 40-year-old point guard played 19 minutes for Los Angeles on Friday night.

Steve Nash took the NBA by surprise on Friday night, not just by returning to action for the Los Angeles Lakers, but by returning to action as the old Steve Nash. No, not that one. The other old Steve Nash. In just 19 minutes off the bench, the former Suns and Mavericks point guard dropped 11 assists, adding five points on 2-of-4 shooting with four rebounds and three steals.

Nash went through non-contact practice on Thursday and joined the Lakers for shootaround before the game on Friday. Coach Mike D'Antoni had previously ruled him out for the rest of the season back on Mar. 13. His career has been in question since ongoing nerve issues in his leg forced him out of action in February, with Nash himself saying that if he isn't playing for the Lakers next season that he would retire.

With 3:25 remaining in the first quarter and the Lakers down, 24-12, Nash entered the game to a standing ovation from the Los Angeles crowd. He promptly logged an assist as he came off a Pau Gasol screen on the right elbow, sending a two-handed rocket of a chest pass to Jordan Hill in the low block for a sweeping hook shot.

Unsurprisingly, six of Nash's 11 assists came in transition, directing traffic for the Lakers and setting up the secondary break as he did back in Phoenix. Stiffness notwithstanding, the first outing for the former two-time MVP was impressive considering the state of the Lakers' 22nd-ranked offense. Nash will back up starter Kendall Marshall for the remainder of the season if he stays healthy, with Jordan Farmar seeing the injury bug bite him once again with an injured groin.

"I don't know how much I'll play, but I'm available and if I can just help out of the bullpen, it will be fun for me," Nash told ESPN.com.

Nash's future in L.A. remains up in the air, as the Lakers could still use the rare stretch provision to waive the oldest player in the NBA this summer. If he can contribute, they could certainly use Nash's talent next season. Los Angeles has 14 games left before their season is over, and at just 22-46, they have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.