Harden has not played since injuring his hamstring early in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bucks. Truthfully, if Brooklyn held a 3-1 series lead and/or point guard Kyrie Irving was healthy, we doubt Harden would be suiting up in Game 5.
But instead the Nets and Bucks are tied at two games apiece and Irving is out with the sprained ankle he suffered in Sunday’s Game 4 loss. As a result, “The Beard” doesn’t want to leave Kevin Durant as the only member of the Nets’ “Big Three” available tonight.
Not surprisingly, the sudden change of plans has spurred plenty of reaction around the NBA world.
JAMES HARDEN UPGRADED TO QUESTIONABLE?!!!! pic.twitter.com/YWGG1inCnH
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 15, 2021
I hope the organization isn’t putting any type of pressure on James Harden to play. Real Talk! https://t.co/Cex858LaQ0
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) June 15, 2021
i think this is a fair concern generally, but this franchise lets kyrie take weeks off in the middle of the season. they can't make james harden do sh t. https://t.co/jL2nsTLhXj
— bomani (@bomani_jones) June 15, 2021
Over James Harden’s career, he’s played in 94% of his team’s games – he’s been such an iron man that Marvel did a special shoe collab with him. This is what he does. https://t.co/h3grgkkNtv
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 15, 2021
Mike Conley needs to get whoever worked on James Harden’s hamstring.
The drama! NBA must be loving this https://t.co/0tDzu3yWyY
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) June 15, 2021
james harden hamstrings reading the news that they’ll be playing tonight pic.twitter.com/cyjKwaVZ9t
— sean yoo (@SeanYoo) June 15, 2021
Remember when people said it was stupid for the Nets to trade for James Harden?
— Shaun Morash (@MrazCBS) June 15, 2021
Without question, this is a calculated gamble by Harden and the Nets. Even if his hamstring is feeling good, he runs the risk of reinjuring it by coming back too quickly.
When the stakes are raised though, these are the types of decisions guys make. We already saw Anthony Davis try (and fail) to gut it out in an elimination game for the Lakers.
Hopefully for the Nets, Harden will have more success playing through his injury tonight.