After James Harden was listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game in Portland and “struggling” with a sore neck according to Steve Nash, the former MVP went through pregame warm-ups before being cleared and put back in the starting lineup.
Harden had suffered the injury in a collision with Washington’s Garrison Matthews late in the first half of Sunday’s win. He was down for several minutes being worked on by Nets medical personnel, but played the second half and downplayed the injury postgame.
“I got hit. That’s part of basketball,” Harden shrugged before Tuesday’s 116-112 Nets win. “I got hit in the jaw. My neck kind of twitched. I’ll be all right. It’s nothing. Get some treatment on it, get some rest and be ready to go the next game.”
As it turns out, Harden was right.
Still, even before the neck issue, Nash had acknowledged concern over how many minutes the 31-year-old was piling up. Harden came into Tuesday leading the league with an average of 37.9 minutes played.
“I’m concerned about the minutes,” Nash said. “I’m not sure what the answer is, though. He controls the game. He hasn’t shot the ball well since the [All-Star] break, but he [makes 3s], he gets to the line. He makes assists, rebounds, steals. He’s great around the basket. … So it’s hard to take him off the floor because he makes his teammates better.”
Kevin Durant didn’t fly with the Nets on their trip, and he won’t join them Wednesday in Utah or Friday in Detroit. But Nash did say the hamstrung star could be on the verge of returning if this were the postseason.
“He just has to close that critical last stage of his rehab,” said Nash. “He’s working out on the court pretty much every day, he looks great. Just trying to make sure that functional strength is there and that we’re confident that he can re-enter playing safely. That is the thing, right?“Kevin is doing very well. If this was the playoffs, there’s a chance he’d be back you know, very soon, but there’s no point in taking a big risk with him when the most important thing is to get him back for the remainder of the season.”
After Blake Griffin was a game-best plus-12 in an abbreviated 15-minute Nets debut Sunday, Nash said the forward would have his minutes limit increased slowly and incrementally.
Griffin played 19:24 against Portland.
“Very, very gradual. I definitely don’t want to get excited or overtax him as we try to ramp him up,” said Nash, who was noncommital on whether Griffin would play against the Jazz. “Remember, he’s played one game in basically a month. He could play more minutes, but I definitely don’t want to jeopardize his long-term health.”
Landry Shamet (ankle) will miss the Utah game, though there is a chance he could join the team Friday in Detroit. … Nash said he expects Alize Johnson will join the Nets in Utah.
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