The Nets had lost five straight heading into Wednesday night’s game at Sacramento and remained weeks away from Kevin Durant’s return.
The ship is listing, which means the Nets wanted to have all hands on deck against the Kings – even if some of those hands were less than healthy.
James Harden, who scored 22 points in the Nets 121-111 loss to the Suns on Tuesday night, revealed after the game that he has been dealing with some painful swelling in his hand but planned to play Wednesday night.
Harden missed the Nets loss to Golden State on Saturday with what the team called a right hand strain.
"I couldn't move my hand, that's why I didn't play the last game at all," Harden said. "At all. But I can move it. I'm playing [Wednesday]."
Harden said the hand injury is something he has been dealing with for weeks and likely is the result of his aggressive style of play. He said he had been managing the injury well until he did something lifting weights the day before the Nets left for their five-game road trip.
"I probably just irritated it or whatnot, so that next morning I woke up and I really couldn't move my hand at all," Harden said. "It actually woke me up pretty early. So I was calling the trainer just to figure out what was going on. Then I got an MRI and it was a strain so it calmed down.
"I’m back on the court."
The Nets had a 29-21 record heading into Wednesday night and were sitting in sixth place in the East. That’s quite a precipitous drop from the first place they occupied all of December and were still clinging to as late as Jan. 21.
That made Wednesday night’s game almost a must win. The Kings, who entered the night having lost seven in a row, are the only team on the road trip with a losing record. The Nets finish up their trip at Utah on Friday and at Denver Sunday.
In theory, the Nets should have more of a chance to win on the road given that one of their big stars, Kyrie Irving, cannot play at home because of his unvaccinated status. Since the Nets decided they would let Irving play on the road with the team, they were 4-5 in the nine games he had played heading into Wednesday night.
Durant has not played since spraining his knee against the Pelicans on Jan 15. Over the past two years, the Nets are 13-3 when the three have played together.
Irving was asked after the Suns loss if he thinks often about how the Big 3 have not spent much time on the floor together.
"We think about it daily," he said. "It’s not something that is shortsighted for us. We think about the long term and how well we jell together as a trio . . . We just have to stay patient and just not lose that confidence that all the pieces will come together at the right time."