Nets guard James Harden looks on from the bench during...

Nets guard James Harden looks on from the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center on Thursday, April 1, 2021.  Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

James Harden missed his 13th straight game with a strained right hamstring when the Nets faced the Trail Blazers Friday night at Barclays Center, and it remains a mystery as to whether he will return during the remaining eight regular-season games.

"James probably is still a ways away, but he’s working and getting better and improving and moving in the right direction," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "We’re all positive and optimistic about his long-term outlook. But we’ve still got plenty of time before we see him back on the floor."

Pressed as to whether Harden is finished for the regular season, Nash said he didn’t think a prediction would serve any purpose. "I’m not 100% certain he will or he won’t," Nash said. "We’re really waiting to see how he responds and how he heals and then how quickly he can handle high-intensity NBA-level work. We’ll see, but both are possible."

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The other Nets injury news was positive. Kyrie Irving returned from a one-game absence to rest a sore groin, and Blake Griffin was limited to 14 minutes Thursday at Indiana so he could complete the back-to-back and play a larger role against the Blazers. Bruce Brown (right knee soreness) missed his third straight game, but Nash said, "All indications are that he’ll play Sunday [in Milwaukee]."

Nic Claxton (health and safety protocols) missed his seventh straight game, but he is on the comeback path. "Nic is back and working out, and we probably need a ramp-up period for him," Nash said. "I’m guessing, but don’t expect to see Nic for at least a week. He’s healthy. He just needs to get his fitness."

Finally, Kevin Durant sat out to rest after scoring 42 in 36 minutes at Indiana, but he sat against his will. "Kevin came out well," Nash said. "I spoke to him, and he wanted to play tonight. I had to be the Grinch and tell him that’s not on. But he feels great."

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