Brooklyn Nets star James Harden hasn’t played since April 5 due to a hamstring injury and, with not much time left before the playoffs start, he and Nets are running out of time to completely gel on the court. According to Harden, though, he is “very confident” he’ll be back before the playoffs.
“The plan is to hopefully get an opportunity to play a couple games before the postseason,” Harden said Thursday, per ESPN. “We’re just taking one day at a time.”
Harden said was on track to play in late April, but suffered a setback on April 21 that put him back on the bench. After Brooklyn’s game against Dallas on Thursday, it has five games left before the end of the regular season.
“We wanted to be patient,” Harden said. “As much as I love to hoop, I want to be out there, but you’ve got to be smart. And for me, it was just, ‘Let’s knock this thing out, let’s get this thing healthy so we can make a push.’
“At this point in my career, going to postseasons basically since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been playing heavy minutes, just carrying the load,” he continued. “And this was an opportunity for me to keep my body right going into the postseason with a clear mind and a clear body. You’ve got 16 games to win. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s the reason why I came to Brooklyn.”
For the year, Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 11 assists, and 8.7 rebounds and was firmly in the MVP mix before his injury. Due to his injury and Kevin Durant’s injury earlier in the season, Brooklyn is taking a lack of chemistry developed in the regular season to its extreme. Per Basketball-Reference, the most common five-man lineup with Harden, Durant, and Kyrie Irving on the floor has played a total of 75 minutes together. Even if it’ll probably work well when it matters, those three have had very little on-court time together to work out the kinks.
As of now, it seems like the Nets are going to end up as the No. 2 seed in the East and, assuming they get out of the play-in tournament, a match-up with the Heat in round one, although they’re only a half-game up on the third seed.