With Kevin Durant and James Harden – Brooklyn’s two hamstrung MVPs – on the brink of returning, the Nets are on the verge of finally becoming whole.
Harden was testing out his sore hamstring Saturday afternoon, with coach Steve Nash deeming it “very possible” that the point guard could return and suit up for the 2 p.m. Easter Sunday matinee in Chicago.
Durant doesn’t appear likely to face the Bulls, but Nash held open an “outside possibility” he could return from a nearly two-month absence Monday when the Nets host the rival Knicks at Barclays Center. And even if Durant doesn’t play then, there’s a “high probability” of him returning later in the week in this high-profile homestand — all three games on national TV.
“I’m not certain on Monday. I think that’s an outside possibility,” Nash said of Durant. “But I also couldn’t say he’s by any stretch probable for Monday. I think it’s just wait-and-see. But it does look positive that this week sometime there’s a high probability he can return.”
Durant has missed the last straight 21 games because of a hamstring strain. The Nets host the Knicks on NBA TV Monday, then Zion Williamson and the Pelicans on Wednesday on ESPN before wrapping the homestand up against the defending champion Saturday against Lakers on ABC.
The 32-year-old Durant hasn’t suited up since Feb. 13, when he had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds to lead the Nets to a 134-117 victory at Golden State against his former team. But he injured his hamstring after what was a mini-comeback of sorts, having missed the three prior games due to health and safety protocols — NBA code for a COVID-19 contact tracing quarantine.
Harden’s hamstring injury was far less severe, and his return apparently more imminent.
“We’ll see. It’s up in the air (for Sunday). He’s working out right now and we’ll see how it goes, but it’s very possible,” Nash said. “And we’re also going to be very cautious if it’s at all a risk. So we’ll see how it comes out [of his workout].”
Shockingly, the Nets’ Big Three of Durant, Harden and Irving has only started seven games together, with a promising 6-1 record.
“I was playing solid before I got injured. And we were just starting to – I felt like we were just starting to figure each other out, James [Harden], Kyrie [Irving], myself, and different lineups out there on the floor,” Durant said. “I felt like we were starting to gain our rhythm, even though I was out a week before that with protocols. But I felt like our team was gaining more chemistry then.
“That’s moreso what I’m concerned about. How I play, I figure that out over time whenever I get out there, whatever position coach puts me in, I’m looking forward to trying to conquer that as best as I can. But the chemistry of the team is something that I kept an eye on and tried to help when I’ve been away; guys have been doing amazing job.”
Trades, signings, quarantines, injuries and even personal leaves have forced the Nets to get used to ever-shifting rotations. They’ve used the second-most starting lineups in the league so far this year, Nash gunshy about even saying they could actually be healthy by the end of this coming week.
“Well that would be tempting fate, my friend, because if I say yes, then someone else will get hurt and I’m not going down that road,” Nash said. “So, there’s a good chance Kevin will return to play this week, and the rest of it I’m not going to touch. So, hopefully.”