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James Harden turns down Olympic invite; Nets lose assistant Ime Udoka

Nets guard James Harden warms up before Game

Nets guard James Harden warms up before Game 7 in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal playoffs at Barclays Center on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets learned on Wednesday they won’t have to worry about superstar James Harden reinjuring himself in the Olympics, and in another news development, they learned that assistant coach Ime Udoka is leaving to take over as head coach of the Atlantic Division rival Celtics.

Talk about a heavy news day. Shams Charania of The Athletic was first to report that Harden has withdrawn from his spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in order to give the Grade 2 right hamstring strain he suffered in the second round of the playoffs three months to heal before training camp in September.

When Harden was named to the team on Monday along with Nets teammate Kevin Durant, general manager Sean Marks acknowledged it would be tough to turn down an opportunity to play for the United States, but he added, "For them to turn that down, they’ve got to look at the big picture and say, ‘I am not healthy.’"

Harden obviously reached that conclusion, but Durant remains as part of the 12-man Olympic roster.

In another development, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Celtics were in the process of finalizing an agreement with 43-year-old Nets assistant Udoka to succeed president of basketball operations Brad Stevens as head coach. Udoka previously spent seven seasons under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, two in Philadelphia under previous 76ers head coach Brett Brown and joined the staff of first-time head coach Steve Nash last season with the Nets.

Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni also reportedly is a top candidate for the Portland job, and assistant Jacque Vaughn reportedly is on the short list for the New Orleans job.

"I’m assuming we will have turnover," Nash said in Monday’s media session. "I’m assuming some of these guys will get jobs because they’re that good and would really add a lot to an organization. So we’re here to support them . . . and we would be in a position where we have to replace a few."

New York Sports