The Nets hardly skipped a beat without James Harden during their first two victories against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but the All-Star guard’s return to the lineup does not appear imminent as the series shifts to Milwaukee on Thursday night.
“James will miss Game 3, but he’s progressing nicely,” Nets coach Steve Nash said Wednesday. “So we’re optimistic that we can have him back at some point, but we can’t set a time on it yet.”
Harden re-injured his right hamstring in the opening minute of Game 1 against the Bucks after playing all five games of the opening round against the Celtics. That hamstring had sidelined him for more than five weeks late in the regular season.
Jeff Green (plantar fasciitis) also remains sidelined, but Nash said there is “hope”the veteran forward will return in either Game 4 or Game 5 (if necessary) of this series.
Green and Kevin Durant were rookies together with Seattle in 2007-08 and were teammates for three more seasons after the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City. Green hardly is surprised to see Durant playing at an MVP-caliber level, two years removed from Achilles surgery in June 2019.
“I’ve known Kevin for a long time. What he’s doing now is something I’ve been seeing for a lot of years,” Green said. “Going against him when we were teammates from our rookie year, I’ve been watching him making a defense look silly and he’s been doing that for a while.
“That’s the gifts that he’s been given, and he’s a hard worker. He puts himself in that position to be that talented on offense. He’s amazing. Watching him from the perspective that I have now, the vantage point is amazing to watch. I’m just glad I’m on his team this time, you know?”
Six-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin has adapted well to a supporting role with the Nets since signing in March following a buyout from the Pistons. The 12-year veteran posted 25 points and 22 rebounds in the first two games against the Bucks.
“It’s just basketball,” Griffin said. “I’ve played with the ball in my hands a fair amount, I’ve played where I was a screener and roller, secondary facilitator. I’ve played basketball my whole life. I’ve been in all of these situations. It’s really just playing basketball. It’s no transition. It’s probably a transition for other people to watch, but at the end of the day you do what is asked of you.”
The Trail Blazers, Celtics and Magic, all with head coach openings, have expressed interest in speaking with Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni, according to ESPN.
Teams looking to chat with the former Knicks head coach will have to wait, however. The Nets will reportedly allow D’Antoni to interview for other coaching positions only after their playoff run is over.
— With Jenna Lemoncelli