The banged-up Brooklyn Nets might finally get James Harden back in the lineup after he missed 18 games in a row and had a slow recovery from a hamstring injury. Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash indicated that Harden will be a game-time decision for tonight’s away game against the San Antonio Spurs.

James Harden Brooklyn Nets hamstring injury return
James Harden could return to the Brooklyn Nets in one of their final three games of the regular season after recovering from a hamstring injury. (Image: Nathaniel S. Butler/AP)

Harden wants to get a couple of real game experiences in the final week of the season before the start of the postseason. He averaged 25.4 points, 11.0 assists, and 8.7 rebounds per game with Brooklyn after he joined the Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade.

The Nets (45-24) recently snapped a four-game losing streak, but still trail the Philadelphia 76ers (47-22) by two games in a tight race to secure the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets are also fending off a hot Milwaukee Bucks squad. They only have a one-game lead over the Bucks (44-25), who currently occupy the #3 seed in the east.

The Nets are still the consensus favorites to win the 2021 NBA championship. The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas listed the Nets at +200 odds on their futures board.

KD Load Management, Kyrie’s Black Eye

Harden last played in early April when he logged four minutes against the New York Knicks before exiting the game with a hamstring injury. The Nets thought he would only miss a couple of weeks. However, Harden suffered a different calf injury during practice, so the Nets decided to shut him down indefinitely to keep him fresh for the postseason.

If Harden returns tonight, he might be the only member of Brooklyn’s Big 3 who will be on the floor. The Big 3 played only seven games together this season due to numerous injuries and mental health breaks.

Kevin Durant doesn’t typically play back-to-back games, and he played in last night’s victory over the Denver Nuggets. All signs suggest Durant will skip tonight’s action.

Kyrie Irving took a Nikola Vucevic elbow to his face in the Nets’ previous game.

“Kyrie mixes it up a lot with the big fellas, so he might catch an elbow here and there,” explained Durant. “He took a nice elbow to the face.”

The Nets beat the Bulls, but Irving left the game in the third quarter. He doesn’t have a concussion and he’s listed as questionable on the daily injury report with a facial contusion.

“Kind of unfortunate, but normal NBA stuff,” said Nash. “He’s a tough cookie, so we’re not worried about him. Obviously, it’s no fun, but he wants to play and is ready to play.”

As usual, the mercurial Irving had no comment. He’s been snubbing interviews and the press all season. The NBA fined him $35,000 for violating the league’s media access rules and his repeated refusal to make himself available to the press.

Nets On Deck: Spurs, Bulls, Cavs

The Nets have only three games remaining in the regular season, but all three are home games at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

They face the San Antonio Spurs (33-35), Chicago Bulls (29-40), and Cleveland Cavs (21-48). All three teams are dunzo for the season.

Nash and the Nets said they’re not focused on seeds, but on their health, which is vital. They need a healthy hamstring from Harden if they expect to make a championship run in the playoffs.

“The number one thought and priority as a staff is health over seeding, but that doesn’t mean we’re 1000% all-in on health over seeding,” said Nash.

The Nets probably won’t catch the 76ers, but they can’t let the Bucks sneak in the back door and steal the #2 seed away from them. Two of the Bucks’ final three games are on the road against the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, and Chicago Bulls.

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