Brooklyn Nets point guard James Harden sat out during the Nets’ 118-88 loss to the Utah Jazz. Harden suffered a neck injury during Sunday’s win over the Washington Wizards.
“The Beard” collided with Wizards shooting guard Garrison Matthews on the Nets’ final possession of the first half and had to be assisted by trainers. The injury was not presumed to be serious as Harden was able to finish the game and suit up for the following game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
However, Nets’ head coach Steve Nash’s latest update on the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player revealed that the injury may be more serious than anybody originally thought.
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Steve Nash Gives Key James Harden Update
“I’m hoping it’s short term,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said via Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“To be honest, I’m sure James would’ve wanted to play [in Utah]. But he’s not. I don’t think it’s safe for him to play, and I think sometimes you have to protect him from himself. He’s such a warrior and competitor and loves to play.”
Nash on #Nets sitting James Harden: "I’m hoping it’s short term. To be honest, I’m sure James would’ve wanted to play…I don’t think it’s safe for him to play, and sometimes you have to protect him from himself. He’s such a warrior and competitor." #NBA https://t.co/1Mpmhim7LA
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) March 25, 2021
Harden had one of his most dominating performances of the season on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers. “The Beard” put up 25 points, six rebounds, and a season-high 17 assists in the win.
On the flip side, Harden shot just 7-for-24 from the field on Tuesday, which is a complete 180 for him as he is shooting 46.8% from the field for the season.
“He was questionable for [Tuesday], played a ton of minutes,” Nash said. “You could see it was tough for him shooting the ball, but he still obviously dominated in other ways. But I think [Wednesday] it was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. It’s pretty sore. I hope that he’ll be back next game, but we’ll have to see day by day here.”
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Preserving Harden Is the Right Decision
The Nets are making the right decision playing the long game with Harden and it starts with protecting him from himself. Tuesday was just the second game he missed since joining the Nets in January as he is one of the NBA’s true ironmen.
The playoffs must remain a priority for Brooklyn, especially as it pertains to Harden. Throughout his career, he has notoriously flamed out in the playoffs. Harden averages 25.2 points per game for his career but that number dips significantly to 22.9 points per game in the postseason.
Harden’s biggest decline occurred during last year’s performance in the NBA bubble. Harden led the NBA in scoring for a third consecutive season in 2020 with 36.1 points per game. That number dropped to 31.6 points in the playoffs.
The biggest concern amongst Nets fans however, must be that the Big Three has only played seven games together. As the season rolls toward the playoffs the length of time that they will have to develop any kind of chemistry is getting shorter as the games go by.
That could end up playing a major part in Brooklyn’s title hopes.