The Brooklyn Nets have hit a bit of a rough patch lately, as their three-game losing streak has seen them fall closer to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference than the No. 1 overall seed, which is currently possessed by the streaking Philadelphia 76ers.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the Nets’ inconsistent play, which can be traced back to the last month, is that their most vital flaws from earlier in the season, like defense and rebounding on both ends of the floor, have made an unpleasant return.
Truth be told, it isn’t surprising Brooklyn has struggled to muster momentum while superstar James Harden has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. If you can believe it, the Nets are 27-7 with their blockbuster acquisition in the lineup and just 9-10 without him.
With that eye-opening stat in mind, should Brooklyn rush Harden back from injury? The three-time scoring champ addressed the media about his recovery process on Thursday and was adamant about being able to return before the playoffs get underway.
Should the Brooklyn Nets rush James Harden back before the postseason?
This is certainly a touchy subject, as the Nets rushed Harden back too soon after he initially aggravated his hamstring. As we know, the nine-time All-Star logged less than five minutes of action on April 5 before he was forced to leave and we haven’t seen him since.
In Thursday’s presser, Harden acknowledged that he’s working on his conditioning, changing direction and other lateral movements, which indicates he’s nearing a return. As long as the Nets’ medical team, which is widely regarded as among the best in the NBA, conducts several tests on the hammy and doesn’t spot a red flag, then go ahead and activate him.
While the fan base is nervous about Harden re-injuring himself — that tends to be the case with soft tissue injuries — the former MVP getting his legs and conditioning back up to speed a few games before the playoffs start should be the top priority within the organization.
Though the first round should be a cakewalk for Brooklyn, the intensity will be revved up significantly, so the last thing fans want is Harden’s first action being in a playoff atmosphere, where teams will look to exploit any potential lingering effects of the injury.
So, when might Harden return? Given that the Nets’ next two fixtures will be on the road against Denver (Saturday) and Chicago (Tuesday), we should probably expect him to be activated for the subsequent three-game home stand, which will mark the end of the regular season.
Again, and we cannot stress this enough, Harden should only return if his hamstring is feeling no less than 110%. If there’s any trepidation he’ll pull up lame after sprinting full tilt or trying to execute the dazzling dribble sequences that make him impossible to defend, he should remain sidelined until that’s no longer a concern.