On Wednesday, the Nets had the "Big 3" of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all together, and they played their best basketball of the season in a 138-112 victory over the Bulls in Chicago. One night later, with Durant and Patty Mills resting and Irving ineligible for the home game, they played one of their worst games of the season in a 21-point loss to the lowly Thunder.
That was the end of a stretch in which they played four games in five nights and traveled from Brooklyn to Portland on the West Coast for a back-to-back and then flew to Chicago on the day off for their big win on Wednesday and back to Brooklyn for the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday.
Asked to describe that five-day stretch and how the Nets recently have tried to bring Irving back into the mix as a part-time player on the road, Harden said, "I would describe it as a whirlwind. It’s something new every single day. It’s pretty difficult, but we just deal with it internally and we just keep going.
"Hopefully towards the end of the season or even after the All-Star break, we can have our full roster and catch a real rhythm to where we know what the hell we’ve got in this locker room."
The Nets reached the midpoint of the season with a 26-15 record that was tied with Miami for second in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Chicago. They have an NBA-best 14-4 road record, but their 11-11 home record ranks 20th in the NBA.
It's hard to make heads nor tails of where the Nets stand right now. Irving is not eligible to play games in New York because he has not complied with the city's vaccine mandate. The Nets originally told him he couldn’t play any games until he was eligible for all games, but they recently relented and he returned for games in Indiana, Portland and Chicago in which they went 2-1.
Harden was asked for his biggest takeaway from that stretch since Irving returned. "Honestly, I don’t know," Harden said. "I don’t know. I can’t tell."
Next up for the Nets is a game against the Pelicans (16-26) on Saturday night at Barclays Center. That’s a team they should beat, but so was the Thunder. Irving is ineligible for that game, but coach Steve Nash said he expects Durant and Mills to return.
The Nets won’t have Irving against the Pelicans, but then, they begin a stretch in which they play nine of 11 games on the road, meaning they will have Irving for nine road games. Harden agreed the chemistry has improved since Irving returned.
"It feels different when we’ve got everybody there," Harden said. "Like, [Wednesday in Chicago] was just how it’s supposed to be the majority of the time. But we’re dealing with whatever we’re dealing with, so we’ve got to just go with the flow and figure it out game by game.
"It’s kind of hard to tell because we’ve got different lineups every game. We’ve just got to keep pushing."