Eastern Notes: Harden, Gafford, Simmons, Barnes

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday about his slow start to the season, Nets guard James Harden explained that he’s still shaking off the rust since he didn’t get to play much during an offseason that was mostly spent rehabbing his hamstring injury.

“I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer,” Harden said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season. So this is my fifth game of trying to just play with competition against somebody else. And as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, (you have to) take your time.”

Harden, who has rarely had to deal with injuries since entering the league in 2009, admitted it was “frustrating” and “draining” to battle the hamstring issue down the stretch last season and over the summer. However, he said that he thinks he’s “getting better every single game.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford appears to have avoided a major injury after undergoing an MRI on his right quad contusion. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Thursday that he expects Gafford to be back in a mater of days, not weeks (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).
  • There’s no set timeline for Ben Simmons, who told the Sixers last Friday that he’s not yet mentally ready to play, but he has been at the team’s practice facility during the last week, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s been working out,” head coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “Today he was at shootaround, did a lot of shooting and a lot of stuff with (skills development coach) Spencer (Rivers).”
  • With the Raptors set to face the Magic for the first time this season on Friday, the Scottie Barnes/Jalen Suggs debate has resurfaced, but fans in Toronto have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Barnes so far, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Barnes, whom the Raptors picked over Suggs at No. 4 in this year’s draft, has averaged 17.0 PPG and 8.2 RPG on 53.7% shooting in his first five NBA games while taking on some challenging defensive assignments.
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