James Harden — who was initially ruled out of Tuesday’s Game 5 with right hamstring tightness — was upgraded twice in the span of hours from “out” to “doubtful” to “questionable.”
Both Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania tweeted that Harden would like to play and his availability is likely to be a game time decision...
Harden has been determined to be cleared to play Game 5 for the Nets, sources said, and he's moved one step closer to joining Kevin Durant tonight with the series 2-2 vs. Milwaukee. https://t.co/bTRPQzSEPk— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2021
Harden has been out since Game 1 against Milwaukee where he reinjured his hamstring only 43 seconds into the opening contest. During Tuesday’s morning shootaround, Joe Harris called Harden being upgraded to doubtful as “positive” and said that the biggest thing is for him to not re-aggravate the injury and go back to square one.
“I think it’s positive. I don’t think they would throw that out there if his health was still in question. That’s the biggest thing at the end of the day is that guys are healthy and you don’t want to put anyone in a compromised position because the worst thing that can happen is coming back early and you start back over from where you were at in the beginning,” said Harris on Harden being upgraded to doubtful.
Aside from the performance staff and coaches, the team keeps the details of other injured players very closehold, Harris said, adding that he knows who’s available shortly before the contest.
“Nothing has been communicated to me, to be honest. With our performance staff and the team, there’s not a whole lot of dialogue with people that aren’t involved in it,” Harris said. “Unless I go snooping around, I don’t really know.”
“I have no idea, to be honest. All I know is that when we show up and then 30 is on the clock and then they put whose matched up against who and who’s playing, that's when I know who’s playing.”
While Harden is unlikely to play in Tuesday’s Game 5, there is a confidence within the group to still perform without two of their top three players considering the experience of missing players throughout the regular season.
“Just having the experience where we didn’t have a fully healthy roster for pretty much the entire regular season and it was a lot of different lineups and different guys in and out. That just provides opportunities for other guys, but also there’s a confidence amongst everyone on this team that no matter whose number is called, you can step in and play your game, play with confidence and help contribute,” Harris said.
Although confidence is at a must-win level, the Nets role players will need to step up to patch the scoring contributions of Kyrie Irving and Harden to help Kevin Durant — the lone superstar wearing the Nets uniform.
“I think everybody else has to have more of an aggressive mindset. You can’t just solely rely on Kevin. Kevin is not going to score 100 points so you got to get production elsewhere,” Harris said. “You hope that he takes a lot of shots efficient and clean as well but everyone else has to step up and play with confidence.”
Harris’ offensive production hit a wall during Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee. After scoring 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in Game 1 and 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in Game 2, the Nets wing combined for only 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting overall — including 3-of-13 from deep — in the two road games.
“Two games ago was obviously a struggle just in terms of offensive production and kind of all the way around with me individually in particular. One of my worst shooting nights, but I thought the next game was certainly better, continued to get good looks and that’s the whole goal,” Harris explained.
“My job is to be aggressive, hunt shots, facilitate offense with pace, allow guys to get room and rhythm looks themselves just by the movement, screening or whatever it might be on my end. It’s not necessarily about me scoring x amount of points. It’s about me initiate offense helping put the ball in the hole regardless of who it is,” Harris added.
There is no question the Nets head into Tuesday’s game with a lot of uncertainty and a changed narrative. but the message has remained the same ahead of the game.
“Everybody should be aware of their assignments, aware of personnel and gameplan and being as focused and locked going into tonight as possible,” said Harris.