For the Phoenix Suns last season, Steve Nash averaged 31½ minutes per game — his least since the 1999-2000 season.

In his first two games under Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, Nash played 41 minutes in an overtime game at Golden State and 38 vs. New York.

Asked Wednesday if he is concerned about limiting Nash's minutes, D'Antoni said: "Yeah, because I'll get killed if I say no."

D'Antoni said joking: "He's only 38, come on."

But D'Antoni wasn't totally kidding, because he said he would rather let Nash play an extra three minutes to help win a game and give him the day off from practice the next day: "I think it's more important he plays."

D'Antoni doesn't like to work players as strenuously on the practice court as many NBA coaches — and he gave the Lakers the day off Thursday after Nash logged 31 minutes in the loss to Denver.

With primary backup Steve Blake "two or three weeks" away from returning from abdominal surgery, D'Antoni suggested 34 minutes a game as a reasonable range for Nash — although the last time Nash averaged more than 34 minutes was his final season with D'Antoni as his Phoenix coach in 2007-08. Nash has played less than that every year since, including recent seasons under former D'Antoni assistant Alvin Gentry.

D'Antoni has made life easier for Nash by protecting him from certain more difficult defensive assignments already. But D'Antoni said Nash is better in some ways than he was when they were together in Phoenix — and Nash was winning the NBA MVP award — including on defense because of increased leg strength.