Nets’ Kevin Durant advance comes with James Harden’s hit

Hi Kevin Durant. Goodbye, James Harden.

One superstar is ready to rejoin the Nets just as another is heading for a prolonged injury absence. Really, what could be more appropriate for this disjointed season?

Durant, who has missed the last 23 games with a left hamstring strain, is “likely” to play alongside Kyrie Irving on Wednesday against the Pelicans. But the big three won’t be complete for at least another week because Harden is sidelined with a right hamstring strain revealed Tuesday by an MRI exam. He will continue with rehabilitation and will be reevaluated in about 10 days, according to the team.

The Nets have preached, “There’s still time” for the whole team to be healthy at once and calm down before the playoffs on every shift since late February, when Durant’s absence extended until the All-Star break. the NBA. He averaged 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 19 games and handed the MVP candidate torch to Harden.

Seventeen games have been off the schedule since then, and the message didn’t change every time Durant’s schedule was delayed, or when Irving missed three games for family reasons, or when LaMarcus Aldridge debuted in a lineup without an injured Harden.

Now, with 21 games left, Harden, Landry Shamet (sprained ankle) and Tyler Johnson (knee pain) are out, and Blake Griffin (knee) does not plan to play both games when back-to-back nights are scheduled.

So here’s the question to ask yourself when it comes to the notion that the fully assembled Nets bounce back from injuries and build chemistry before the playoffs. There is still time?

Best-case, unlikely, if Durant’s comeback is a measure for Harden, that’s 16 games to treat as a playoff warm-up schedule.

Kevin Durant (l) and James Harden
Kevin Durant (l) and James Harden
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I just hope those guys get some rest, they come back strong and they come back and we’re ready to go,” forward Jeff Green said after Harden fell in Tuesday’s win against the Knicks.

The Nets may not have an alternative strategy to “hope” after using 25 different starting lineup combinations and 16 different starters. The longest streak of the same starting lineup is four consecutive games.

“I felt like we were starting to understand each other – James, Kyrie, myself and different lineups on the court,” Durant said last week of the chemistry before his injury. “That’s what worries me the most.”

Even when the group is finally healthy, will they be able to stay long enough to find a rhythm before the playoffs start on May 22? With a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference almost certainly, the Nets have room for error.

But Harden expressed an urgency before his injury, saying: “On paper it looks good, but we have to get out there and get going.”

The Mets’ “hope” for a dream of five aces – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler – was intact for three turns in the rotation over four seasons.

The Giants’ hope for a full complement of offensive playmakers – Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram – manifested itself during a quarter of a game out of 32 played during the first two seasons of the game. quarterback Daniel Jones.

Sometimes it’s not meant to be.

“You control what you can control, and it’s unfortunate,” Nets sniper Joe Harris said.

The nuclei of the Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holliday) and the 76ers (Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons) will not learn each other’s on-court tendencies in the playoffs. And the Nets’ injury roster is no match to go head-to-head when contenders shorten their rotations.

Harden, Irving and Durant have played seven games together since joining forces. Harden, Irving and Griffin have played three together. Irving, Griffin and Aldridge have played one together. Harden, Irving and Aldridge lasted a game quarter together. Harden, Irving, Griffin, and Aldridge have yet to play together.

A projected starting playoff lineup of Harden, Irving, Aldridge, Durant and Harris haven’t played a minute together.

The Nets’ cautious approach may be the magic touch and a completely healthy lineup needs only a few games to strike a chord. There’s enough raw talent – 41 lifetime All-Star picks – on the roster to make the unfamiliarity a moot point.

“It’s the regular season,” Irving said, “so we do our best to find some motivation to play every game at a high level. … I think we’ve been able to learn a lot from each other. “

There is more to learn. Quickly.


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