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Nets' James Harden expects to be back before playoffs

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden shoots around during

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden shoots around during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Barclays Center on Friday, April 30, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

James Harden says he will be back in time for the playoffs. It’s possible he might even return before the regular season ends. In any case, the right hamstring strain that caused him to miss his 16th straight game Thursday night in Dallas apparently has improved immensely.

"I feel really good," Harden told reporters Thursday morning. "Just trying to get my conditioning back. Just changing speeds, changing direction, making sure the power and the quickness is there to be able to move how I move. So far, so good. Today was really good, and we’ve just got to keep building on that."

Harden did not hesitate when asked if he will be available come playoff time. "Very, very confident," Harden said. "I guess the mark I have to hit is the work that I did today and have a couple of those (intense workouts) without any feeling. But I am very confident I will be back before the postseason."

The word ‘before" was intriguing. Harden will miss his 17th straight game when the Nets are in Denver on Saturday. They finish the regular season with two back-to-back sets against the Bulls on Tuesday and Spurs on Wednesday and then against the Bulls on May 15 and Cavaliers on May 16. There is no way he will play all four of those games, but when asked if he might play a couple of them, Harden indicated it is possible.

"The plan is to hopefully get an opportunity to play a couple of games before the postseason," Harden said. "We’re just taking it one day at a time."

So far, the Nets’ Big 3 of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving only have played seven games together. But Harden said the lack of playing time together is "not an issue. One of the things that a lot of teams don’t have is talent. We don’t have to worry about that aspect. Skill-wise, we’re elite. I’m not worried at all."

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