The Brooklyn Nets were hardly ever fully healthy during the regular season. The combination of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving played only eight games and 202 minutes together during the regular season, but after a quick 4-1 series win over the Boston Celtics in the first round, it looked like the star trio was finally starting to coalesce.
Unfortunately, the injury gods just won’t leave the Nets alone. Less than one minute into Game 1 of their second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Harden left and went to the locker room. He was seen reaching for his right hamstring on Brooklyn’s first offensive possession, a drive and kick attempt. He was then ruled out for the remainder of the game due to that hamstring. On Sunday afternoon, the Nets officially ruled Harden out of Game 2 as he is dealing with what the team has described as right hamstring tightness.
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“Yeah. I mean you know to be honest with you, tightness, and most importantly is he’s out for the next game,” Nets coach Steve Nash said on Sunday. “We’re preparing for tomorrow night as we ended up playing last night and that’s our focus. For James, we obviously are desperate for him to return and he’s a huge piece of what we do and our team, but at this point I think it would be all guesswork to really understand — he’s had such an up-and-down recent history with it and it’s really hard to predict, so let’s hope for the best. But we can’t really say anything too predictive or too definitive right now.”
While Nash said that the Nets would have to consider taking some risks given it is playoff time, Brooklyn isn’t going to risk further injury to Harden by rushing him back.
“All I’m aware of is tightness,” Nash said. “I think James, he has high hopes. And wants to be back ASAP. Now I think we want to protect James, too. We want to make sure he’s right. This is playoff time, this is time to take some risks, but it has to be right to take those risks. We’re not going to take any old risk. So we hope he’s back. I think he believes he can be back. But we gotta see what happens, and only time can tell how he responds and where he’s at in the coming days.”
Harden missed 21 games during the regular season because of an issue with his right hamstring, so any issue there is a very serious blow to Brooklyn’s championship hopes. This series already has a number of injuries weakening both sides. The Nets are playing Game 1 without forward Jeff Green. The Bucks lost guard Donte DiVincenzo for the postseason during their first-round series against the Miami Heat. Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL earlier in the season and has been out ever since.
Injuries have sadly been a constant feature of this condensed season, but as Nash said, Brooklyn is built to withstand them as well as any other team. Having three All-Star shot creators helps protect them against an injury to any one of them. The duo of Kyrie Irving and Durant is still more than enough to keep the offense afloat for a short period, but in order to win the championship, the Nets will need all three of their stars contributing.