It’s the tale of two hamstrings. The Brooklyn Nets eagerly awaited the return of Kevin Durant back to the lineup after missing 23 games with a hamstring injury, but now they have to deal with James Harden missing time with a hamstring issue of his own.
Harden tweaked his right hamstring against the New York Knicks on Monday night. He didn’t score a single point in four minutes of action before he left the game early with an injury and never returned. Without Harden, the Nets held on to defeat the Knicks 114-112 thanks to a 40-point effort by Kyrie Irving.
The Nets suggest that Harden will miss at least 10 days. His injury seems minor compared to Durant’s, who hasn’t played since mid-February.
This season, Harden is averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists, and 8.0 rebounds. Last week, he lit up the Detroit Pistons with 44 points and 14 rebounds.
Durant is expected to return tonight when the Nets meet Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. In 19 games this season, Durant averaged 29 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game. The Nets are 12-7 with Durant in the lineup. Without Durant, the Nets are 23-9 this season.
The Return of the Big 3
Since Harden joined the Nets in a mega-deal, four-team trade in January, Brooklyn’s Big 3 appeared in only seven games together.
When Harden arrived, Irving had missed multiple games. At the time, both Irving and the Nets were vague on the exact reason for his absence. Irving later admitted he needed a mental health break.
The Big 3 of Irving, Durant, and Harden were on the court together only seven times before Durant went down with a hamstring injury. At the time, the Nets thought Durant would miss a couple of weeks. Well, a couple of weeks turned into nearly two months. As a result of losing Durant for an extended period, head coach Steve Nash had to conjure up some clever lineup choices.
Durant and the Nets didn’t want him to rush back because they need their superstar healthy for the postseason. Besides, even without Durant in the lineup, the Nets took over as the top team in the Eastern Conference. They surged ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers when Joel Embiid missed two weeks with a bruised knee.
Only the Utah Jazz (38-12) have won more games than the Nets this season. Considering that Durant missed 23 games, that’s an amazing feat.
Since Durant went down with the pulled hamstring, the Nets bolstered their roster by adding a pair of veteran free agents. LaMarcus Aldridge secured a contract buyout from the San Antonio Spurs. The Nets snagged Aldridge before the LA Lakers could sign him. The Detroit Pistons and Blake Griffin also agreed to a contract buyout, and Griffin quickly signed a min-contract with the Nets.
Brooklyn Betting Odds
Meanwhile in betting markets, the Nets jumped ahead of the LA Lakers on the NBA futures board. After LeBron James suffered a severe ankle sprain, the Nets became the consensus favorite to win the 2021 NBA championship.
The Nets are currently +260 odds favorites, according to the most recent update at DraftKings. The Lakers are +340 odds.
The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are currently tied with 35-16 records. They each hold a 2.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Atlantic Division race is one of three super-tight divisional battles in the NBA right now. The Nets are the favorite to win the Atlantic at -167 odds. You can back the 76ers at +115 odds to win the division.