James Harden

Nets Notes: Harden, Dinwiddie, Bigs, Jordan, Durant, Irving

James Harden has missed five games due to a hamstring strain, but Nets general manager Sean Marks said the All-Star guard should be back soon, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “James is progressing well,” Marks said. “He’s looking forward to having at least one or two more play days, which means he’ll play 4-on-4, 5-on-5 with the group in practice. And then hopefully if things go smoothly, he’ll be out and joining the guys in a game.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • While it seems doubtful Spencer Dinwiddie could return from a partially torn ACL for the playoffs, Marks would not rule it out, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. “I would never bet against Spencer Dinwiddie,” he said. “We saw four years ago with him. He has a chip on his shoulder. He loves to prove people wrong.”
  • Coach Steve Nash plans to mix and match DeAndre Jordan, Nicolas Claxton, Blake Griffin and Jeff Green at center in the aftermath of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s retirement, Lewis relays in a separate story. “I don’t think it makes sense to just pencil something in if the matchups aren’t more favorable for us,” he said. “They all bring something different. They all have a different profile.”
  • Jordan’s role was reduced dramatically prior to Aldridge’s departure. He’s back in that mix now but he was never going to be a distraction, Lewis tweets. “Selfishly, individually, it’s obviously not ideal for me,” Jordan said. “But being on a team, you have to be able to sacrifice and put the team first, and I’ve done that night-in, night-out. And I’ll continue to do that.”
  • Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving started in the 130-115 win over Charlotte on Friday and Marks is confident his big three will be ready to go for the postseason, he said in a Sirius XM NBA Radio interview (Twitter link).

Harden Out At Least 10 Days, Durant To Return Wednesday

APRIL 7: Durant will be available to play on Wednesday night, the Nets have confirmed (Twitter link).

APRIL 6: After nagging hamstring discomfort limited James Harden to just four minutes of action in yesterday’s defeat of the Knicks, a subsequent MRI has indicated that the All-Star Nets guard has a strained right hamstring, the team tweets. The club will reassess the injury in 10 days.

Before his attempted return to the floor Monday, Harden previously missed two games with what was initially diagnosed as hamstring tightness. Harden had edged his way into the league MVP conversation with his stellar play of late, but any extended absence could derail his chances. With Brooklyn, Harden is averaging a sparkling 25.4 PPG, 11.0 APG, 8.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.7 BPG, with a solid shooting line of .467/.361/.867 on high volume.

Harden’s comportment in forcing his way off the Rockets likely poisoned the well somewhat among the league journalists who vote for year-end award honors, so earning a second such career honor this season would’ve been an uphill battle even before the injury. Harden’s subsequent play for his new team, however, had made him somewhat undeniable as one of the league’s best players.

Meanwhile, Harden’s fellow Nets All-Star Kevin Durant could rejoin the club from his own strained left hamstring injury as soon as Wednesday against the Pelicans, per Malika Andrews of ESPN. The team officially lists him as probable (via Twitter), but Andrews notes that internally the team anticipates that the forward will play. Durant has been inactive for Brooklyn since February 13.

Since the Nets traded for Harden in mid-January, the team’s three All-Stars (Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving) have only played together in seven games. Despite this, the club has an Eastern Conference-best 35-16 record.

Harden joins a crowded backcourt injury tally. Head coach Steve Nash suggested on Monday that reserve guard Tyler Johnson could miss two-to-three weeks as he recovers from right knee soreness. Backup guard Landry Shamet has been unavailable since last week with a right ankle sprain. Spencer Dinwiddie continues to rehabilitate from a partially torn ACL and the team expects him to miss the rest of the 2020/21 season.

Nets’ Johnson Likely Out 2-3 Weeks, Harden Still Bothered By Hamstring

Prior to Monday’s game vs. the Knicks, the Nets announced that guard Tyler Johnson will require a “period of rehabilitation and strengthening” to address the soreness in his right knee, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays (via Twitter).

The club didn’t offer a specific timeline for Johnson’s recovery, indicating in its announcement that updates on his status would be provided as appropriate. However, speaking later to reporters, head coach Steve Nash suggested that it would likely be a “two-or-three week thing” (Twitter link via Lewis).

Johnson has been a reliable rotation player for Brooklyn this season, averaging 16.8 minutes per contest in 31 games. However, he’s obviously not nearly as crucial to the team’s ongoing success as James Harden, who is dealing with a leg injury of his own.

After missing two games due to right hamstring tightness, Harden returned to action on Monday night, but only played four minutes before experiencing discomfort in the same hamstring and leaving the game, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.

As Lewis writes for The New York Post, Nash said that a pregame scan on Harden’s hamstring was clean and that his strength tests were normal, so there’s no indication that there’s any structural damage. For now, Harden is considered day-to-day — after the game, Nash expressed uncertainty about whether the former MVP would have to miss much time.

“This may linger. It may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean, but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The banged-up Nets are also missing guards Landry Shamet, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury, and Spencer Dinwiddie, who is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the season while recovering from ACL surgery.

On the plus side, star forward Kevin Durant, who has been out since February 13 with a hamstring injury of his own, is reportedly close to a return. And even while battling the injury bug, Brooklyn keeps winning. The team is currently 35-16, a half-game ahead of Philadelphia for the top seed in the East.

Nets Notes: Aldridge, Harden, Durant, Johnson

LaMarcus Aldridge described his debut with the Nets as “perfect,” and Brooklyn fans would probably agree. Playing for the first time in a month, Aldridge started at center Thursday night and posted 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals in a win over the Hornets, writes Matt Eppers of USA Today.

“I’ve been working. I wasn’t just sitting on my couch,” Aldridge said after logging 30 minutes. “I’m an older guy, so I know how to stay ready. I was surprised how good my wind was because I thought I would definitely be more tired, but I felt great.”

There was a huge demand for Aldridge once he cleared waivers last week, even though San Antonio couldn’t work out a trade after deciding to shut him down early last month. He chose the Nets because he saw them as his best chance to compete for a title. Brooklyn played last night without Kevin Durant and James Harden, and Aldridge knows his role will eventually be to complement his All-Star teammates.

“Just try to find my spots to help these guys be better, try to open up the floor for Kyrie (Irving), James, KD,” Aldridge said. “And when teams switch, just go down low. So I thought tonight was perfect. We had a good balance of inside, outside. They doubled me tonight, so I was just trying to find the open guy.”

There’s more this morning from Brooklyn:

  • Coach Steve Nash doesn’t believe Harden’s hamstring injury will be a long-term concern, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Harden had to leave Wednesday’s game and sat out Thursday, but it’s considered to be just a Grade 1 strain and he’s expected back soon. “He’s doing pretty good. He had a scan and it was clear, so he’s day-to-day. So, we’re excited that it wasn’t worse,” Nash said. “So, big sigh of relief and you know, day-to-day means we will see him probably in the next few games for sure.”
  • Durant’s return could happen next week, Nash tells Tom Dowd of NBA.com. Nash doesn’t expect Durant to be ready Sunday or Monday, but he said the former MVP is “progressing in the right manner and we’re hopeful it wont be too long.” Durant has missed 21 games with a hamstring strain and hasn’t played since February 13.
  • In case you missed it, the Nets signed forward Alize Johnson to a second 10-day contract Thursday.

Health Updates: Harden, Durant, Drummond, More

The Nets announced today that James Harden, who left Wednesday’s game with hamstring tightness, has also been ruled out for Thursday’s contest vs. Charlotte. However, according to Shams Charania of Stadium (video link), the injury isn’t considered to be serious, and Harden will be day-to-day going forward.

Harden’s teammate, Kevin Durant, has been dealing with a more serious hamstring issue, having not played at all since February 13. But Charania says Durant is “closing in” on a return to action, adding that if this were the postseason, the star forward would already be playing. Durant still isn’t expected back until possibly sometime next week.

Meanwhile, Blake Griffin will rest on the second night of a back-to-back for injury management purposes, but the Nets will have their other buyout-market addition, LaMarcus Aldridge, available on Thursday for the first time, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Here are a few more health updates from around the NBA:

  • Andre Drummond‘s debut with the Lakers didn’t exactly go as planned. The veteran center left the game with a right toe bruise, a diagnosis that understated how painful the injury was, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. “I didn’t really think anything of it,” Drummond said, referring to a play where Brook Lopez stepped on his foot. “I came back in the second quarter and it was hurting a little bit more. And then after halftime, I finally took my sock off to look and my whole toenail was gone. So, it was just all bad from there. I couldn’t walk or run. So I just told Coach (Frank Vogel) to take me out.” Drummond is considered day-to-day.
  • Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova has yet to appear in a game this season due to a concussion and an appendectomy, but that may change on Thursday. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Wednesday that Dellavedova is close to being ready, and that he’s hopeful of a “Delly sighting” against Philadelphia, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
  • Suns big man Frank Kaminsky isn’t injured, but he’s on the shelf for now after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.
  • As we relayed earlier today, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will remain sidelined through at least mid-April.

New York Notes: Harden, Johnson, Knicks

Since being traded to the Nets, James Harden has played at his usual MVP-caliber level, propelling Brooklyn to the top of the Eastern Conference. While there will be plenty of debate down the stretch over who should win the 2020/21 NBA MVP, for Harden, the answer is clear.

“I feel like I am the MVP,” Harden said after the Nets’ win over the Pistons Friday night, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. “It’s that simple. I don’t want to speak individually on myself.”

In 31 games with Brooklyn, Harden has averaged 26.0 PPG, 11.4 APG and 7.9 RPG to go along with 13 triple-doubles. With extended absences from his other star teammates in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Harden has at times shouldered much of the responsibility in carrying the team.

“Numbers are showing it for itself, and we’re winning,” Harden said. “That’s all I can say.”

Check out more news and notes from New York’s teams:

  • Despite Harden’s value to the team on the court, head coach Steve Nash says he has considered reducing the star guard’s minutes a little to lower his burden, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “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.”
  • In a separate story, Lewis details a whirlwind that brought Alize Johnson from his mother’s house to Utah to debut for the Nets following the conclusion of the G League season. Johnson had a strong debut for Brooklyn and has a chance to stick around beyond his first 10-day pact.
  • The Knicks had a relatively uneventful trade deadline and, despite various rumors, stayed away from acquiring any of the top available players. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, the quiet deadline gives New York flexibility both in free agency this summer and in the buyout market in the weeks ahead.

Eastern Notes: Ball, Pacers, Graham, Harden, Brown

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is cementing his case to be the favorite for Rookie of the Year this season, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Most recently, Ball finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and six assists over the Raptors on Saturday, leading his team to a 114-104 win.

“The biggest thing is he made a couple of plays — I’m not saying we were threatening to cut the game down, but in the 15-to-17-point range — that were not looking good for them and all of a sudden, he zings a no-look pass for a layup or something,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Ball. “You think you’ve just about got them all bottled up and you’re heading the other way, and he would make a really spectacular pass for an assisted bucket.”

The 19-year-old Ball has averaged 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists this year, shooting 45% from the field and 39% from three-point range. Charlotte currently sits at sixth place in the East with a 19-18 record.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The Pacers‘ flight to Denver on Sunday afternoon has been delayed due to a major snowstorm, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. The storm has produced more than 19 inches of snow in Denver, causing the Pacers to remain in Phoenix. The team plays the Nuggets on Monday after a 122-111 win over the Suns on Saturday.
  • Although he’s in a contract year, Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham isn’t complaining about losing his starting spot, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. In addition to LaMelo Ball‘s impressive play, fellow guard Terry Rozier is in the midst of a career season, averaging 20.3 points per game on 49% shooting.
  • Alec Sturm of NetsDaily examines how James Harden has helped Bruce Brown become a valuable contributor for the Nets this season. Brown, who is in his third NBA season, has started 22 of his 35 contests for Brooklyn this year.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Amick’s Latest: Celtics, Barnes, Clippers, Lowry, Bagley

Many front office people around the NBA believe the Celtics might trade for Kings forward Harrison Barnes prior to this month’s deadline, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Boston’s interest in Barnes has been reported multiple times this season, including on Tuesday by Chris Mannix of SI.com.

As Amick explains, Barnes is probably a more realistic target for the Celtics than players like Jerami Grant and Nikola Vucevic, whose teams would likely seek a more substantial return. Sources tell The Athletic that the Kings appear to be shifting into seller mode, so they could be intrigued by Boston’s first-round picks and young prospects, who would match Sacramento’s timeline.

Here’s more from Amick:

  • Sources tell The Athletic that the Celtics‘ interest in James Harden – and their involvement in the Harden sweepstakes – was more serious than Danny Ainge‘s comments at the time would suggest. Amick has previously reported that Boston was still in the mix during the later stages of negotiations.
  • The Clippers feel good about their core and if they make any trades, they’ll likely just address the margins of their roster, according to Amick, who hears from sources that Lou Williams no longer appears available, as he was in the offseason.
  • People around the NBA believe Kyle Lowry‘s $30.5MM cap hit will be an obstacle that may prevent the Raptors guard from being dealt, says Amick. The Clippers are among the teams with interest in Lowry, but may not be able to make the money work, according to Amick, who points to the Thunder‘s George Hill as a more affordable and attainable alternative for teams in need of a veteran point guard.
  • Finances will also be a factor for teams considering making a play for Kings forward Marvin Bagley III, per Amick. Bagley will make $11.3MM in 2021/22 and his qualifying offer in ’22 would be worth nearly $15MM.

Atlantic Notes: Morey, Embiid, Raptors, Griffin, Harden

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been blown away by Joel Embiid‘s talent, comparing him favorably to former Most Valuable Player James Harden. In an interview with Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated, Morey lavished praise on his MVP candidate. “I get in trouble when I say stuff like this but he’s the most unstoppable thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And I’ve seen a lot. You know who I’ve seen. But I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Morey also admits he’s irritated by the Nets’ collection of stars. “I mean, it’s annoying,” he said. “I would rather have all the good players in the West. So that’s probably annoying. But you know, everything else will get me fined, I think.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors will allow up to 3,500 fans at Tampa’s Amalie Arena beginning on March 19, according to a team press release. Toronto begins its post-All-Star break schedule at home against Atlanta on Thursday, then heads out for a three-game road swing. The Raptors, who have 18 home games remaining after Thursday’s contest, began the season allowing fans in Amalie Arena, but closed their doors in early January following an increase in coronavirus cases in the area.
  • James Harden is sure that the Nets’ latest addition, Blake Griffin, will be highly motivated to win a ring, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Harden noted that Griffin gave back $13.3MM to the Pistons in his buyout. “I’m sure he wants to win. If he’s passed up on money to stay in Detroit, he wants to win, and he wants to have an opportunity to play meaningful minutes. I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons why he came.” Harden also believes Griffin can contribute with his improved ball-handling and 3-point shooting in recent seasons, Scotto relays in another tweet.
  • Griffin’s play-making from the power forward position gives the Nets a new dimension, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Schiffer breaks down all of Griffin’s assists this season to demonstrate how he could help in that aspect.