It’s official. The James Harden watch is underway for the Nets. He has missed 17 straight games since suffering a setback with his strained right hamstring, and he might sit out the Nets’ next game Tuesday night in Chicago.
But coach Steve Nash indicated on Monday that Harden is on pace to return during this final week of the regular season, which concludes with three home games on Wednesday against the Spurs, a rematch with the Bulls on Saturday and a game against the Cavaliers on Sunday.
Harden spoke to the media last week, which was an indication he is close to returning, and when Nash was asked for an update following Monday’s practice, he described Harden as "day-to-day" in terms of his return. "He is putting in his consecutive high-intensity work modes," Nash said. "He has responded, so it’s all positive.
"It’s just a matter of monitoring it from today to tomorrow to Wednesday and figuring out what’s the best plan of attack. We’re not committed to anything. We’re just trying to get a good picture from one day to the next on where we’re trending, where we’re heading and make a sound decision based off that. But definitely possible that he plays one or more of these next four games."
Nash said Harden has scrimmaged in practice. But he must undergo further scans, a medical evaluation and then report how he is feeling to the Nets’ medical team after his recent workouts.
"It’s all trending in a positive direction, and he is playing," Nash said. "As far as how we strategize these last games, I couldn’t commit to anything because we want to consider various factors within our group, within our playoff prep, our health and just the big picture . . . We have contingencies, but we haven’t decided what we’re going with."
Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11.0 assists while shooting 36.3% from three-point range in 34 games since joining the Nets. They are 27-7 when Harden plays but only 10-11 without him in the lineup. One of those wins came Saturday night in Denver when the Nets overcame a 21-point deficit after allowing 71 first-half points and held the Nuggets to just 15 fourth-quarter points. The win snapped a season-worst four-game losing streak.
"I think we got tired of feeling embarrassed by the way we were playing, and we just got it together and came out the second half and played harder pretty much," veteran Jeff Green said.
Reflecting on their slump, Green added, "I talked to some of the guys. When you look at our season, this was our first time going through it. Having almost a full roster, going through the pains of our longest losing streak, and I think we were trying to figure out how to react. In the second half, we started clicking defensively, and we got through it. We found our rhythm on the defensive end. That was big for us."
Now, the Nets just need to add Harden back into the mix. "He helps out in a lot of ways," Green said. "We miss him, and hopefully, we get him back soon."