National Basketball Association

The Brooklyn Nets are loaded, but injuries hamper chances to build on-court chemistry

4 days ago

The training room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn must have a revolving door.

For the Brooklyn Nets this season, it has been one injury after another, particularly to their superstar triumvirate of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Durant has been the hardest hit of them all, featuring in 19 of Brooklyn's 51 games this season after missing all of the 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury.

Irving has been relatively healthy this season, but having had his 2019-20 season cut short by shoulder surgery, his injury history precedes him.

Furthermore, Irving has been absent for personal reasons at various points this season.

All told, Irving has played in 36 of Brooklyn's 51 games.

Then there's Harden, who was a stalwart in the Nets' lineup ... until recently.

Since arriving in Brooklyn, "The Beard" played in 34 of 38 available games. But he left Monday night's game against the New York Knicks with a hamstring injury, causing concern among Nets watchers.

The Nets announced that the injury is a strain and that Harden's status will be reevaluated in 10 days.

Unfortunately, Harden's absence coincides with the expected Wednesday night return of Durant, who has missed 23 straight games with a hamstring strain of his own, an absence that was much longer than expected.

As one superstar returns, another one goes.

There is no denying the talent on the Nets' roster. Individually, each member of the Durant-Harden-Irving trio has shown he can be an absolute force.

Irving put up 40 in a 114-112 win against the Knicks on Monday, a game in which Harden played just four minutes prior to departing.

Prior to Monday's game, Harden thrust himself into the MVP discussion by averaging 25.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 10.9 assists since he came over in the trade with Houston.

James Harden, LeBron James, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are in a tight race for MVP this season. The FOX Bet Live crew agrees Harden is a better bet than LeBron in the MVP race.

Everyone understands the depth of talent possessed by Durant, a career 27.1-point, 7.1-rebound, 4.1-assist performer.

If there is a cause for concern, though, it might be that these guys haven't had a chance to play together, having suited up for the same game only seven times this season.

If the Nets are going to make a run at a championship or even manage to get past the talented Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference, will they have enough court time together by the time the playoffs roll around?

Chris Broussard sees team chemistry as a potential issue for this very reason, saying on "First Things First" that it would be "virtually unprecedented if this Nets team wins the championship because of their lack of time together on the floor. And now that's been ratcheted up even more. Their degree of difficulty has gotten even higher."

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks 114-112, with Kyrie Irving scoring 40 points and making 7 assists, but James Harden left the game after 4 minutes with hamstring tightness. 

Brandon Marshall took a slightly different stance, saying that while the Nets might worry about the chemistry among their stars and other players, there is no reason to worry about the ability of Harden, Durant and Irving to play together.

"The Big Three, they've played pickup ball before, they've played on Team USA before, they've got enough chemistry between them. James Harden and KD, they go back to Oklahoma together. ... At the end of the day, they know the spots they need to be in. They know their roles. They figured that out early."

There is evidence to back up Marshall's point. When the Nets have had all three of their stars on the court together, they are 5-2 and score an average of 124 points per game. To compare, the Milwaukee Bucks are the NBA's top-scoring team this season, at 119.2. points per game.

But while the Nets creep toward the playoffs and try to get all of their stars together, they'll continue to build chemistry with the players available as they continue to try to outlast the 76ers for the top seed in the East.

Other players will have to step up, as Jeff Green (23 points) and Joe Harris (16) did in Monday's victory over the Knicks.

As Irving said Monday night, "we want guys to be healthy, but when situations happen like that, we just got to be able to move on to the next thing."

And if the Nets ever do get everybody together, the rest of the NBA had better watch out.

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