Just as the Nets were on the brink of reuniting their Big Three, on the verge of finally getting back both Kevin Durant and James Harden, they lost reserve guards Tyler Johnson and Landry Shamet. The Nets are getting healthy … with an asterisk.
While Harden sat out Sunday’s loss in Chicago, coach Steve Nash confirmed the hamstrung guard could’ve played if this were the postseason. He implied it was just the team being extra cautious with Harden, which bodes well for a return Monday versus the Knicks — a game that could see Durant return as well.
“James, I think it’s just caution. If this was a playoff game, I’m pretty sure he’d be here with us,” Nash said. “But I think we all wanted to just be cautious and give him an opportunity for an extra day’s rest and make sure that he is as healed as possible, if he does go [Monday]. If not, if he hasn’t healed, we didn’t rush into it. We’re just trying to make a measured decision.”
Harden has missed the last two games with a tight right hamstring. The Nets said imaging turned up clean with no strain, which augurs well for a Monday return. Durant is less likely but not ruled out either.
Sidelined by a left hamstring strain, Durant hasn’t played since Feb. 13. He’s missed 22 straight games, but Nash said there’s a chance the former MVP could face the Knicks and is likely to return at some point this week.
The Nets host the Pelicans Wednesday and Lakers on Saturday.
“I’m not certain for Monday. That’s an outside possibility,” Nash said. “But I also couldn’t say he’s by any stretch probable for Monday. We’ll wait and see. But it does look positive that, this week sometime, there’s a high probability that he can return.”
With just 22 games left on the schedule, the Big Three have started just seven times together, going 6-1 and winning their last five. The Nets are anxious to get them back together so they can build cohesion.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot, to see guys healthy, doing what they love,” Jeff Green said. “I hate seeing KD out. I hate to see James go down. I hate to see Tyler go down. I just want guys healthy. That’s a selfish part of me in seeing my teammates. I want them to have fun doing what they love.
“I don’t know what the deal [is] with Tyler, but hopefully it’s nothing too serious and he’s out only a couple days. We’ll tell [Monday]. But hopefully, James plays [against the Knicks] and KD is back soon, just to see everybody healthy so we can try to get that chemistry going again.”
After leaving Harden and Durant home to spare them the rigors of travel, the Nets lost Johnson to a right knee strain. He went down with a noncontact injury, putting no pressure on the leg as he was helped off the floor with 9:26 left.
Shamet limped off 1:07 later. It was only his second game back after missing five straight with a right ankle sprain.
“We’ll see how they look in the morning. Tyler’s gonna get his knee evaluated and probably a scan. … We’ll see what happens [Monday],” said Nash.
“All we can do is wait for the scan and then decide. But he’s been great, and we all really enjoy coaching and watching him compete every night, so hopefully it’s not bad. But we’ll see what happens after the scan.”
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