The Nets’ Big Three was officially pared down to a Big Zero, with James Harden a late scratch from Wednesday’s game at NBA-leading Utah.
After suffering a neck injury in Sunday’s win, Harden had been listed as questionable and very much in doubt right through pregame warmups Tuesday in Portland before suiting up and leading the Nets to a come-from-behind victory. But questionable again a day later, he sat against the Jazz.
“(Wednesday) when I wake up, if I feel like I can go, I’ll go,” Harden had said. “It’s that simple.”
Harden had cited the fact that the Nets needed him, playing shorthanded without Kevin Durant (hamstring) and Kyrie Irving (family matter). When asked by the Post whether he would’ve sat out Tuesday’s game had Brooklyn’s other two All-Stars been available, he replied he just wants to play whenever he’s able.
“Throughout the course of my career, I love to hoop. I love to be out there and taking on the challenge of finding ways to win games,” Harden said. “In basketball, everything isn’t going to be perfect. Whether it’s playing through injuries or playing banged up. Even in life, everything isn’t always going to be perfect so you find ways to fight through adversity. Obviously when you’re hurt, you’re hurt. You sit out. I try to go out there, make an impact and play if I’m able to if it’s not risking anything.
“That’s how I’ve been throughout the course of my career. Throughout the regular season, I love to play. I love to hoop. I love being out there and being there for my teammates. I feel like, if I’m on the court, my teammates have a better chance to win.”
Harden isn’t wrong there, averaging 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and a league-high 11.5 assists in 30 games since arriving. The Nets’ 23-8 record since acquiring him is second-best only to the Jazz, who they faced Wednesday.
And Harden’s desire to play can’t be questioned. His 870 games played are the most in the NBA since his 2009 debut, and his 38.0 minutes averaged this season are tops in the league.
“I’m concerned about the minutes,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I’m not sure what the answer is, though. He controls the game. He hasn’t shot the ball well since the break, but he makes threes. He gets to the line. He makes assists, rebounds, steals. He’s great all around the basket. So, it’s hard to take him off the floor because he makes his teammates better.”
Apparently fate – and a neck injury – is taking that decision out of Nash’s hands.