PHOENIX – Phoenix point guard Steve Nash sat out practice Saturday and will again today to rest a sore right hip.

Nash, a two-time league MVP, said the rest should make him ready for Monday night’s Western Conference semifinal opener against the San Antonio Spurs. The team had Friday off, so that would mean three days’ rest before he plays again.

“It’s getting better,” Nash said Saturday. “I’ve had two good days so I’m really fortunate that we don’t play until Monday. It will give me a chance to recover a little bit.”

Nash, 36, strained the hip during the shootaround before Game 3 of the Suns’ first-round series against Portland. He said the injury bothered him that night, but he felt better in Games 4 and 5. He said the injury “was pretty bad” in Phoenix’s series clinching 99-90 victory Thursday night in Portland.

“It was the worst that it’s been, so a couple of days here are really good for me,” he said.

Coach Alvin Gentry called Nash’s problem “a little hip thing” and no big deal.

“If it was a big deal I wouldn’t be so calm,” Gentry said.

Nash struggled through much of Thursday’s game, starting with a career-worst six first-quarter turnovers. He finished with 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting with seven turnovers. But he had two big plays down the stretch, penetrating the lane and passing to Amare Stoudemire for a dunk, then sinking his only 3-pointer of the night.

Gentry said he saw no reason to put Nash through a practice, deadpanning, “I think he has a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to do.

“We were going to go pretty hard today. I didn’t want him out there doing that,” Gentry said. “I gave him the day off. He came down, shot some, got some treatment and he’ll do the same (today).”

Meanwhile, center Robin Lopez increased his participation in practice as he works his way back from a back injury (bulging disk). Gentry said he’s not going to put any pressure on the 7-footer to return.

“It’s going to be totally up to him,” Gentry said. “If he feels great and he’s ready to go, that will be fine.”


LAKERS: Center Andrew Bynum has a small tear in the meniscus in his right knee, leaving him questionable for the second-round playoff opener against Utah.

Coach Phil Jackson said Bynum might try to play through the pain in today’s opener at home.

Bynum hyperextended his knee Friday night in the first half of the Lakers’ series-clinching victory against Oklahoma City, but played the second half wearing a brace. An MRI exam revealed the tiny tear, which apparently was aggravated by his injury.

Bynum missed the last 13 games of the regular season with a strained Achilles’ tendon, but returned to average 12 points, nine rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots while starting all six games against the Thunder.


AVERY JOHNSON, a former Dallas coach, said he’s scheduled to speak early next week with Philadelphia and New Orleans about each teams’ coaching vacancy.

Club representatives will meet Johnson in Texas — the Sixers on Monday and the Hornets on Tuesday, Johnson said.

Johnson has been working as a TV analyst for ESPN, which first reported Johnson’s plans.

A Hornets spokesman said the team has no comment at this time and the 76ers said they don’t comment on coaching searches.


JAZZ: Forward Andrei Kirilenko said he hopes to return by Game 3 of the second-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kirilenko sat out the first-round victory against Denver and missed most of the last month of the regular season with a strained left calf.

Kirilenko said his calf has been feeling better and Game 2 on Tuesday in Los Angeles is a slight possibility, but Game 3 next Saturday in Utah is the target for his return. The Jazz and Lakers open the second round today in Los Angeles.


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