The Brooklyn Nets announced on Tuesday that James Harden has suffered a setback during his rehabilitation for a strained right hamstring.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets will "continue to be cautious" with Harden and there's a possibility that his return will "come closer to the start of the playoffs."
With Harden sidelined indefinitely and Kevin Durant currently dealing with a thigh injury, our NBA.com Staff weighs in on how concerned they are about the Nets with a month remaining in the regular season.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I've got to say, I'm getting pretty concerned.
I still have no doubt that the Nets have the potential to win the title this season, but they're running out of time to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Put it this way: Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving have shared the court for a total of 186 minutes over seven games. They've been absolutely dynamite in those minutes, scoring at a rate of 122.4 points per 100 possessions, but we still haven't seen them play much together.
To boot, the path to the Finals isn't exactly going to be easy. With the No. 2 seed, the Nets could face a team like the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat in the first round, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. The No. 1 seed has a much easier path, but with Harden and Durant out indefinitely, they're going to have a hard time overtaking the Philadelphia 76ers.
So I'm not smashing the panic button yet, but Harden, Durant and Irving not getting more reps together before the playoffs does close the gap between them and the other contenders in my eyes.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): At full strength, I don't think there's a team that has the firepower to match this Nets team, but I'm starting to worry that we might not see this team at full strength.
I'm all for Brooklyn taking the cautious approach with its stars, especially considering the nature of hamstring injuries, which have afflicted both Durant and Harden this season. That being said, the nature of those types of injuries is the root of my growing concern.
Just as the Nets can ill-afford to not take the time to figure out how to make those pieces work together, it's even more crucial that they don't cut any corners by rushing Harden back, especially given how quickly a setback can arise.
With under a month remaining until the postseason, the above two ideas don't exactly go hand-in-hand.
I'm hoping for the best because I think it would be amazing to watch the trio of Durant, Harden and Irving on the NBA Playoffs stage, but the team's injury misfortune this season has me afraid to look too far into the future.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'm not concerned at all.
Until they rule one of Harden, Durant or Irving out for the season, I expect them to make the Finals.
If they have two of their three superstars available to them for the first round, I'd be ok with that too. They have until the second round of the playoffs to get it right. These guys are that good.
Let's not forget how good they looked in that the small sample size we saw the Nets' three stars on the floor together. As Scott mentioned, they were incredible offensively when they shared the floor, but they were also outscoring teams at a rate of 8.4 points per 100 possessions. And they were doing it efficiently with a true shooting percentage of 64.1, which would lead the league by miles.
Are there going to be some growing pains when they eventually get back get together on the court? Of course there will be. But I believe that this team, when healthy, is so good that they can make it to the Finals without truly reaching their peak potential. They can be a work-in-progress and still compete at a high level with whoever comes out of the West. That's how much I believe in the talents of those three guys, and also the pieces around them.
They'll be fine. Put the panic button away.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm with Carlan, I'm not concerned just yet.
There's not much left to say that hasn't already been said, but I do believe the Nets could still make a run even if it's only two of their superstars dressing to start the postseason. Irving has been incredible when he's on the floor this season and I don't see that tailing off any time soon. Durant's most recent injury just being a minor thigh contusion leads me to believe that they're just being ultra cautious with their All-Star forward, and I do feel like he'll be back and rolling come playoff time even though he has missed a huge chunk of games this season.
It's obviously not encouraging that Harden is listed as "out indefinitely," but I believe Brooklyn's supporting cast is good enough to hold things down in a playoff series as long as Irving and Durant are on the floor. Players like Joe Harris, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Landry Shamet, Nicolas Claxton and DeAndre Jordan can all take on bigger roles when necessary and help guide their team out of the first round.
Call me crazy, but I don't really see it as a huge cause for concern that Irving, Durant and Harden have only played in seven games together, either. I don't think it'll take much for them to get comfortable playing alongside one another.
Unless Durant suffers a setback with his leg injury, I think the Nets will be okay.
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