Brooklyn’s Big Three was down to a Big Zero, and the Nets ruled James Harden out of Wednesday’s game in Utah in large part to protect him from himself.
After sustaining a neck injury Sunday, Harden had been highly questionable during warm-ups leading up to Tuesday’s game in Portland before finally donning the suit. But questionable again a day later against the Jazz, the Nets sat him down in hopes of keeping him healthy for Friday in Detroit and beyond.
“I hope it’s short term,” coach Steve Nash said. “To be honest, I’m sure James would have wanted to play [in Utah]. But is not. I don’t think it’s safe for him to play, and I think sometimes you have to protect him from himself. He is a warrior and competitor and loves to play.
“But it was questionable because [Tuesday], played a lot of minutes. You could see it was difficult for him to throw the ball, but he obviously dominated in other ways. But I think [Wednesday] It was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and get him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. He’s quite sore. I hope the next game will come back, but here we will have to see the day to day ”.
Harden dominated Portland with 25 points and 17 assists Tuesday, but shot just 7 of 24 and 0 of 7 from deep. A downward trend continued. Harden shot 48.4 percent in the first half of the season, and 40.1 percent from 3, but he’s seen those shots drop to 38.8 percent and 15.4 percent in the second. The question arises whether fatigue and neck injury have taken a toll on his shot.
“I’m sure it affected him a bit. … He hasn’t thrown the ball well since halftime, ”Nash said. “He’s still played very well and has been dominant, but the neck hasn’t helped in any way. But we had to protect him from himself. He still wants to try to play.
I’m telling you, he’s in pain. The problem with playing when you are not well is what else can go wrong. So it is a dangerous situation. He’s been struggling with this, and it’s very important that we protect him, because we’re going to need him and he has a lot of demands on him. “
Both Harden’s story and his comments credit the conservative Nets having to protect him from himself.
“[Wednesday] When I wake up, if I feel like I can go, I’ll go. It’s that simple, ”Harden had said, citing the fact that the Nets needed him while playing few players without Kevin Durant (hamstring) and Kyrie Irving (family affair).
“Not everything is going to be perfect, be it playing due to injuries or playing badly. … Obviously, when you are hurt, you are hurt; you sit outside. I try to go out, make an impact and play if I can if I don’t risk anything ”.
Brooklyn chose not to let Harden put himself at risk. Clearly, his desire to play cannot be questioned. Harden’s 870 games are the most in the NBA since his debut in 2009, and his 38.0 minutes averaged this season are the best in the league.
With Durant and Irving in and out of the lineup, Harden has put together a MVP-worthy campaign in which Charles Barkley, who loudly doubted the trade when it happened, said he could be the best player in the world.
“It has to be up there. That guy is brilliant, ”Nash said. “He loves to play, an incredible passion for the game, a great competitor, long-lasting, and you see the way he manipulates the game. Run the show, upgrade your teammates. He is a historically elite playmaker. And he’s also an elite scorer and shooter historically.
“The other things is that he has good hands and steals. He’s a great rebounder, an incredible rebound for a guard. He is also a very smart defender and quarterback our defense most of the time. So, James is brilliant. And I could go on and on. He is an incredible basketball player. And it’s a joy to be able to train and watch him every day. “
ESPN described the Lakers as favorites to hit the Nets’ potential buyout target, Andre Drummond. Pelicans guard JJ Redick is more likely to land in Brooklyn, as the 36-year-old owns a condo in DUMBO and his wife prefers Brooklyn as a destination.
Steve Nash called it “doubtful” that Landry Shamet (ankle) would join the Nets on Friday in Detroit.