National Basketball Association

James Harden's injury setback poses more headaches for Brooklyn Nets

April 21

In just his first year as a head coach, Steve Nash seems to have had to answer a career's worth of questions about his team's health.

That's because, for whatever reason, the Brooklyn Nets cannot seem to get and stay healthy. 

Just as James Harden was closing in on a return from a hamstring injury, he suffered a setback that has ruled the superstar guard out indefinitely. 

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Kevin Durant's injury saga took another turn when he left the game against the Miami Heat after just more than four minutes of action.

Prior to Brooklyn's game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, Nash gave an update on his two superstars.

"Yeah, back to square one," Nash said of Harden. "We'll rehabilitate him and get him back whenever we can, and who knows? Who knows when that will be? ... And hopefully that comes sooner than later, but there's no guarantee."

As far as Durant, Nash said the forward's injury is "more of a day-to-day thing."

Fortunately, the Nets didn't need Harden and Durant to take down Zion Willamson's Pelicans.

The lone healthy face of Brooklyn's three-headed monster, Kyrie Irving, made sure of that with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting in a 134-129 win.

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Irving also addressed Harden's setback, saying, "We just want him to be as healthy as possible."

He also spoke about the trio's desire to build chemistry heading into the postseason.

"I think we just all want reps together," Irving said. "But if we're not able to get that, then we'll figure it out."

As Irving alluded to, Brooklyn's vaunted trio has seen precious little floor time together. They've played in just seven games together this season, going 5-2 at full strength.

With all the other permutations, the team is .500 or better, and Harden and Irving are the duo that has seen the most time together.

That's the regular season, though.

The postseason is a different animal, as Irving candidly pointed out, saying, "The level of play that is needed in the playoffs, or on that main stage, is totally different than the regular season."

With just 14 games left, including Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, the runway for building chemistry is growing shorter by the day.

The injury list has Joy Taylor, who joined "First Things First" on Wednesday, concerned. 

"This should kind of be panic mode, no?" Taylor said. "There's so many injuries. You can't rely on Kyrie all the time to even be there. They haven't played together. It's just because they're in the East that we're probably even still putting them in the contention conversation."

Chris Broussard shared his thoughts on Brooklyn's title hopes, too, pinning them on KD and Harden more than any other Nets players.

"With just two of their 'Big 3,' they are a contender," Broussard said. "Doesn't mean they're a favorite, but they're certainly a contender. But to win a championship, they need James Harden and Kevin Durant more than anybody. If they've got James Harden and Kevin Durant healthy, I think they can win the championship. ... Harden has been the key to this thing."

Chris Broussard joins "First Things First" to share how concerned he believes Nets fans should be about their team's title chances.

Time will tell if the Nets can get to full health before the playoffs begin, which would be May 22 for Brooklyn, assuming they don't nosedive into the play-in tournament.

If they do roll in healthy, Skip Bayless of "Undisputed" has no qualms about their credentials, despite the lack of playing time.

"Am I going to write them off because of this?" Bayless asked. "No, I'm not because they are 39-19, and I don't know how they're 39-19. That's a deep basketball team."

The next time Harden, Irving and Durant all step on the floor together could very well be in a playoff series.

At this rate, if that's what it takes to guarantee all three are healthy, Nash might be more than willing to accept that scenario.

The chemistry will just have to build as they go along.

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