After a setback for the star guard James Harden in his recovery from a hamstring injury, Nets Coach Steve Nash made the painful admission on Tuesday night that Harden might be sidelined until the start of the N.B.A. postseason next month.
The Nets have had a healthy Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all on the court for just 186 minutes this season across seven games since acquiring Harden from the Houston Rockets in a Jan. 14 trade. Even if Harden can come back before the Nets complete their 14 remaining regular-season games, they will be chasing the first championship in the franchise’s N.B.A. history with less on-court time together for their three stars than any team of recent vintage regarded a title contender.
“He’ll be back when he’s back,” Nash said. “That may not be until the playoffs. It may be sooner. I don’t know.”
Harden is one of the N.B.A.’s most durable players and played some of the best all-around basketball of his career in his first three months as a Net before missing the Nets’ first two games in April with a strained right hamstring. He has missed nine of the Nets’ last 10 games; missing seven games with Houston during the 2017-18 season was the previous longest absence of Harden’s career. Before their 134-129 victory on Tuesday night in New Orleans, the Nets announced that Harden had suffered a setback during an off-court rehabilitation session on Monday that will keep him out indefinitely.
“He just felt it,” Nash said. “He didn’t fall or stumble or anything out of the ordinary. He just felt something maybe in the ballpark of a strain. Then the scan revealed he did suffer a setback. So not much more to it other than just disappointment and that we have to rebuild and get him going again.”
Durant also missed the New Orleans game as he recovers from a thigh contusion he sustained in Miami on Sunday when he absorbed a knee from the Heat’s Trevor Aria. Durant only recently returned to the lineup after missing 23 games with a hamstring strain of his own that brought an abrupt end to his hot start this season in a comeback from the torn right Achilles’ tendon that cost him all of last season.
After scoring 32 points in the victory over the Pelicans, Irving acknowledged the growing possibility that the “reps” he said he hoped to get alongside Durant and Harden before the playoffs begin may not materialize. “If we’re not able to get that, then we’ll have to figure it out,” Irving said. He added that “it’s not easy to just take games off and come back in — for anyone.”
Harden last played on April 5, when he left a victory over the Knicks after logging just four minutes. He is averaging 25.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 10.9 assists as a Net. Durant is averaging 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists but has played in only 24 of the Nets’ 58 games.
The Nets were also rocked last week by the sudden retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge, a recent signee and seven-time N.B.A. All-Star. In his 15th season and after just five games with the Nets, Aldridge decided to leave the sport immediately because of an irregular heartbeat.
The New York Times reported on Monday that the Nets are in advanced contract talks with the former Phoenix and New Orleans guard Mike James, with a signing expected by week’s end after James satisfies the league’s Covid-19 testing requirements based on its health and safety protocols. After a tumultuous season with CSKA Moscow in Russia, James was recently released from his contract to pursue N.B.A. opportunities.