The Nets‘ plan to build a championship team around three stars was derailed by injuries, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN. Brooklyn pulled off a bold trade in January to acquire James Harden from Houston and combine him with 2019 free agent additions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn’s Big Three were rarely all healthy at the same time. With the season on the line against Milwaukee Saturday night, Irving was out with a sprained ankle and Harden was limited by a strained hamstring.
“I still thought we could win it,” coach Steve Nash said. “And clearly, I think we proved tonight that we could. Game could have gone either way. You always know there’s a chance. Anything can happen. I think we just faced one too many obstacles this year. Because our guys gave everything they had.”
Harden, who hurt the hamstring in the opening minute of Game 1 and didn’t return until Game 5, revealed that he had been playing with a Grade 2 strain that limited his mobility. He missed nearly a month during the regular season with an injury to the same hamstring.
“Me, personally, like, it’s frustrating,” said Harden, who played all 53 minutes Saturday. “Just being durable and being myself for the last so many postseasons and dealing with this particular hamstring, I’m frustrated. We did everything we could towards the end. Just frustrated, but give the Bucks credit. They fought until the end, had a hell of a series. We just came up short.”
There’s more from Brooklyn:
- Bruce Brown, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, expressed interest in returning to Brooklyn next season, Andrews adds. Unrestricted free agents Jeff Green and Blake Griffin both said they need time to recover before thinking about the future, but they enjoy playing for the Nets. “I’m still happy with my decision,” Griffin, who signed with Brooklyn after reaching a buyout with the Pistons, told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “This was obviously a tough loss, and not where we’re expected to be. But injuries are part of the game, things happen. Being without James for four games and then having him on one leg … (it’s) a messed up situation.”
- Durant, Harden and Irving will all be eligible to sign extensions of up to four years during the offseason, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Brooklyn will have to determine how much money it wants to commit to the trio, and each player will have to decide whether to take the security now or seek more money when they can opt out in 2022.
- Spencer Dinwiddie has until Monday to make a decision on his $12.3MM player option for next season, Marks adds. Dinwiddie has indicated that he will turn down the option and pursue free agency, and Marks believes he’ll get at least that much on the open market. The veteran guard played just three games this season because of a partially torn ACL, but his rehab has gone well and he talked about possibly playing if the Nets had reached the NBA Finals.