Nets’ Big 3 has vital opportunity with James Harden back

Practice, as basketball thinker Allen Iverson seemingly would agree, is one factor, however taking part in is every thing. And after a five-week layoff, James Harden knew he needed to play earlier than the Nets’ video games began to depend for actual with the onset of the playoffs.

Harden, after lacking 18 straight video games with a strained hamstring, made a triumphant return in Wednesday’s victory over the Spurs. And he plans to go well with up once more in at the least one (and presumably each) of this weekend’s video games versus the Bulls and Cavaliers, hoping to get on-court time with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“Of course,” mentioned Harden. “Preseason is one factor, the common season is one other stage, postseason is a completely different stage. And then the degrees enhance as you go totally different rounds.

(*3*)

Since buying and selling for Harden in mid-January, the Nets are 28-7 when he performs and 11-11 when he doesn’t. And upon his return Wednesday, he was shockingly efficient on each ends of the courtroom contemplating he hadn’t performed since limping off the ground on April 5 throughout a win over the Knicks.

With Harden coming off the bench as a consequence of minute restrictions, his 18 factors, 11 assists and 7 rebounds weren’t an enormous shock. But he had two steals, two blocks and performed underrated protection, getting stronger as the sport went on.

It was a priceless step for Harden. Now he intends to take one other step or two on this weekend’s back-to-back, fine-tuning earlier than the playoffs tip off May 22.

“It’s great that he’s going to get at least another game in for his confidence, his reps, that rhythm that we keep talking about,” coach Steve Nash mentioned. “It’s actually essential as a participant, particularly going into the excessive depth of the postseason the place persons are going to be scheming and bodily and the sport raises.

“It’s essential for him to get some touches on the market and play. That week off the place we are able to put together for the playoffs is basically essential particularly for our crew. We’re taking part in in opposition to groups which are working it back three, 4 years now within the playoffs, going deep within the playoffs.

“This season for us it’s been three teams more or less. I don’t think our four top perimeter guys have even played with Blake [Griffin] and Nic [Claxton] together. We’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to overcome, and mainly it’s time. So that week is important for us to spend some time going over everything we need to for the playoffs and preparing to play.”

Nets James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant Big 3
Nets stars (l-r) James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant the final time they performed collectively on Feb. 13, 2021.
AP

The Nets’ Big 3 has logged simply 186 minutes collectively all season, unfold over seven video games. Irving missed Wednesday’s recreation with a facial contusion, so the trio nonetheless hasn’t performed collectively since Feb. 13 at Golden State.

But with Irving cleared to play this weekend, the Nets — who led the third-place Bucks by 1 ½ video games within the Eastern Conference getting into Thursday — might get their Big 3 some vital time collectively earlier than the postseason.

“It’d be great if we can get everyone on the court together. I’m not sure that’ll happen,” Nash mentioned. “We’ll see what happens: It seems like something different changes by the day. But if we do have that luxury, that’d be great. You know, it won’t be a lot. It won’t be enough, but it’ll be something.”

If Harden is reunited with Durant and Irving, it gained’t simply be their first time taking part in collectively in practically three months. It’ll be for the primary time the Big 3 and Joe Harris have ever performed in a lineup alongside both Claxton or Griffin, the Nets’ prime facilities.

“It’s gonna be fun,” Claxton mentioned. “I personally haven’t played with all three of those guys yet, so it’ll be good to catch somewhat of a rhythm before the playoffs and just being able to get those reps. I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun.”

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