As if losing Kevin Durant for a week because of NBA health and safety protocols wasn’t a big enough blow for the Nets, Kyrie Irving (sprained right index finger) was ruled out against the 76ers on Saturday night in Philadelphia in the second game of a back-to-back set.
In other words, the Nets’ Big 3 was down to the Big 1, with James Harden starting alongside Joe Harris, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jeff Green and DeAndre Jordan. They were facing a tall order against a 76ers team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference at 16-7. Long Island natives Tobias Harris and Danny Green started for the 76ers alongside Seth Curry and perennial All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Given the fact that the Nets have another back-to-back set coming up Tuesday in Detroit and at home Wednesday against the Pacers, coach Steve Nash was asked if load management was part of the reason for resting Irving.
"This one with Ky is not any load management," Nash said. "He genuinely has a swollen finger and he took a knock to it yesterday . . . We’ll see how it responds, but hopefully it is day-to-day and we’ll see him back in action on Tuesday."
Because the Nets were shorthanded, especially in the frontcourt without Durant, Nash anticipated that 6-10 shot-blocking center Norvel Pelle, who recently was signed as a free agent, would make his Nets debut against the team for which he last played in 2019-20. Swingman Iman Shumpert, who played with the Nets briefly last season and was re-signed as a free agent, is not considered in shape yet.
"Norvel very well could find some action tonight," Nash said. "We’ll see how the game goes."
Harden has concentrated on playmaking since joining the Nets, but when asked if the three-time league scoring champion had the green light to go for 100 against the 76ers, Nash smiled and said, "Yeah, I’d love to see it. At the same time, I don’t like putting players in that position where it’s like ‘Get us 100 or we lose.’ We’d love for James to have a monster game, but we have to do it collectively. We have to scrap and fight."