Before Sunday’s game, Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said James Harden was not being traded.
On Tuesday night, Nash hopes he can say Harden will be on the floor as the Nets host the Boston Celtics. Brooklyn is mired in an ugly eight-game losing streak.
In recent weeks, rumors have surfaced about Harden possibly being sent to the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Those rumors have run alongside reports about the Nets’ frustrations ahead of his free agency.
While Harden denied those reports two weeks ago, Nash was forced to answer whether the guard would be traded by Thursday’s deadline. Nash then was unable to use Harden for the second straight game due to left-hamstring tightness.
“He’s continually reiterated that he wants to be here, and we’ve continually said that we want him here,” Nash said. “That’s our best chance to win.”
Harden was impacted by right-hamstring tightness during the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring against Milwaukee. He has missed two other games during Brooklyn’s skid and has not been consistently effective in the four games he has played.
Harden scored 33 points in his last home appearance on Jan. 25; however, the Nets were saddled with a 10-point setback to the Los Angeles Lakers. He sat the next two games before shooting 8 of 30 from the floor over his last two contests. Harden was held to four points Wednesday as the Nets scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of an 11-point loss at Sacramento.
Without Harden, the Nets were outplayed in a 125-102 loss at Utah on Friday and then collapsed in the second half of their 124-104 loss at Denver on Sunday. Kyrie Irving scored 27 points in that game, but the Nets were held to 29 in the second half.
Brooklyn knows it will not have Irving for any home games since he is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and New York City’s vaccine mandate is unlikely to change.
The Nets also are 2-9 since Kevin Durant sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Jan. 15. They are still waiting for Joe Harris to return from ankle surgery and might be without LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Nic Claxton (hamstring).
“These guys just have to show the resolve,” Nash said. “That’s the opportunity here — win, lose or draw to show the resolve, keep pushing to stay together.”
Boston heads to Brooklyn with wins in five straight games and seven of their last eight overall. The Celtics own five double-digit wins during their last eight contests, including Sunday’s 116-83 rout in Orlando.
“We’ve been talking about learning and growing all season,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “So we just keep that up. Keep that edge. We’re not satisfied.”
Brown scored 26 points on Sunday, Dennis Schroder added 22 and Jayson Tatum collected 15, nine rebounds and seven assists. Those showings came on a standout defensive night as the Celtics allowed 35.8 percent shooting after permitting the Detroit Pistons to shoot 32.7 percent.
“It’s suffocating, at times, with our size and versatility,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said of his team’s recent run of standout defense.
The Nets opened the season series with a 123-104 win in Boston on Nov. 24. They shot 50.6 percent from the field and limited the Celtics to 37.4 percent.
–Field Level Media