James Harden ruled out for Nets-Bucks Game 2

The Nets say they’ve averted the worst-case scenarios with James Harden’s troublesome hamstring and are hopeful the star can return at some point during the Eastern Conference semifinals against...

The Nets say they’ve averted the worst-case scenarios with James Harden’s troublesome hamstring and are hopeful the star can return at some point during the Eastern Conference semifinals against Milwaukee.

A statement termed Harden’s injury as “right hamstring tightness,” and when Steve Nash was asked multiple times on Sunday if the MRI on Harden’s leg revealed a strain — which would be more severe — the coach implied it did not.

“All I’m aware of is tightness,” said Nash. “James, he has high hopes and he wants to be back ASAP. We want to protect James, too; we want to make sure he’s right.

“This is playoff time. This is time to take some risks, but it has to be right to take those risks. We’re not going to take any old risk. So, we hope he’s back, he believes he can be back. But we’ve got to see what happens, and only time can tell.”

Granted, it’s the same right hamstring that cost Harden 18 straight games late in the regular season. Despite having been forced out of Saturday’s Game 1 win and ruled out for Monday’s Game 2, the news on Harden could’ve been worse.

Brooklyn offered no concrete timetable for Harden’s return. But when pressed, Nash did say he was hopeful of seeing the guard play again during this series.

“I’m definitely hopeful of seeing him,” Nash said. “It’s tightness, and we’ve had this history before, which was very difficult to predict … so I’m very reluctant to make any prognosis. But obviously, we’re really hopeful that he heals quickly and can move past it. We just focus on the next game and understanding he won’t be with us for the next game, but hope he heals very, very quickly.”

Harden’s injury occurred 43 seconds into Game 1 as he drove against Jrue Holiday on a kickout to Joe Harris. He grabbed his right leg and gingerly left the court.

The Nets’ James Harden (l.) reinjured his hamstring in the opening minute of Game 1 against the Bucks
Corey Sipkin

He had an MRI that the Nets say showed no strain, thus no structural damage.

“Tightness, and most importantly he’s out for the next game,” Nash said. “So we’re preparing for [Monday] as we ended up playing [Saturday,] and that’s our focus.

“For James we obviously are desperate for him to return, and he’s a huge piece of what we do. But at this point, it’d be all guesswork. … He’s had such an up-and-down recent history with it that it’s really hard to predict; so let’s hope for the best.”

That history started March 31 against Houston, when Harden felt tightness and sat out the next two games. Brooklyn denied he had a strain, but upon Harden’s April 5 return against the Knicks, he lasted just 4:22 before getting injured again.

After a strain was then confirmed, Harden missed 18 straight games over five weeks, not coming back until May 12. He’d been on the verge of an earlier return but suffered a setback during an April 19 on-court rehab session.

This time the Nets are expecting a quicker rehab.

“He seemed to be in good spirits, to be honest,” Harris said. “He was talking a lot during film, asking a lot of questions, normal sort of leadership role.”

For perspective, Game 6 against Milwaukee would be June 17 if needed, 12 days from the injury. A potential Game 7 would be June 19, exactly two weeks’ time.

Mike James was summoned back into the rotation and logged 30:15 in Game 1. Kyrie Irving scored 25 points in 45 minutes, and will likely become more ball dominant along with Kevin Durant.

“He’s one of the greatest players in the game. So we miss a guy that can play-make, can manipulate the defense, can score one-on-one. I could keep going. He’s a leader for us. So, we miss a tremendous amount,” said Nash. “But we’ve had that all year. We’ve had guys in and out of the lineup, guys have stepped up.

“We’re in a position where at least we’re familiar with making adjustments with our lineups, rotations, combinations. We were able to survive it [Saturday], and we’ll have to be even more cohesive and clear [Monday] to win.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis

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