James Harden has cleared the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said Thursday. This means he's allowed to fly with the team with Los Angeles on Friday. The same is true of Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter, who have also been out of action due to COVID protocols.
Brooklyn still has 10 players in protocols, however, ahead of that marquee matchup. Rookies Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr. and Cameron Thomas have all entered protocols, Nash said, joining Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Day'Ron Sharpe, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre' Bembry, Bruce Brown and James Johnson.
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When an NBA player tests positive for COVID-19, he has to isolate until 10 days have passed from the first positive test or the onset of symptoms, or until he tests negative on two PCR tests taken at least 24 hours apart. Before he can return, he must be cleared by a team and league doctor.
Harden and Carter entered protocols on Dec. 14, a day after Millsap did. Based on this timeline, more reinforcements could be coming -- Aldridge, Bembry, Brown and Johnson all entered protocols on Dec. 14 -- but, according to Nash, the team anticipates being severely shorthanded against the Lakers.
"We're not expecting anyone else to come out of protocols, but it's possible," Nash said. "So, you have to do, I think, two negative tests 24 hours apart, so I guess that gives us tonight and tomorrow night to return two negatives, but we're not predicting anybody to come out of this soon."
Nash said that the players in protocols have been "largely asymptomatic," and that those with symptoms have had "very mild" ones.
The Nets haven't played basketball since their 100-93 loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday at Barclays Center. Their three games leading up to Christmas -- at home against the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards, then a road game in Portland -- were all postponed. Brooklyn shut down its practice facility after the initial outbreak, but has since reopened it for healthy players to do individual workouts.
"But no group workouts," Nash said. "And it basically just started up yesterday, today, guys are back on the court in isolation. So it's tricky. We haven't been able to do a lot, but we do what we can."
Nash said the Nets hope to have a proper practice Friday, but he is uncertain whether or not that will be in the cards. Assuming that Harden plays in Los Angeles, he could be sharing the floor with four new teammates -- in the last week Brooklyn has signed Langston Galloway, Shaquille Harrison, James Ennis III and Wenyen Gabriel to 10-day contracts using hardship exceptions.
Given the circumstances, Nash tempered short-term expectations for the team.
"Sometimes it can be funky when you get back in the gym after a week or so -- and some of our guys, longer," Nash said. "So we have to give them the space to kind of get their rhythm and timing. And as a group we have to approach this the right way, with excitement and ... positive energy, and at the same time not put too much pressure on ourselves to play flawlessly out the gates."
Other notes on sidelined Nets:
- Irving will have to do "some sort of ramp-up" after he clears protocols before he can play in a (road) game, Nash said. Translation: He'll have to play some five-on-five, which might mean getting some work in with the "stay ready" group (i.e. other players working back from an absence or out of the rotation).
- Nicolas Claxton, who missed Brooklyn's last game with a wrist injury, could play in Los Angeles, but Nash isn't sure either way. "It just depends on how he progresses," Nash said, "but he is progressing and he's put himself in a position where he's got a chance to play on this trip. So we'll just see, and hopefully he can come back and not miss too much of his rhythm, timing and impact."
- Joe Harris is "improving, for sure," Nash said, but he "won't be playing on this trip, that's for sure, and I'm not really sure when he would return." Harris had surgery on his injured ankle on Nov. 29, and his agent told ESPN that he'd be out 4-6 weeks. He hasn't played since Nov. 14.
If there was any doubt that Saturday's game would be played as scheduled, Nash was definitive: Yes, some version of the Nets will take the court in Los Angeles. (The NBA requires every team to have at least eight available players.)
"We have enough to play," Nash said. "I think we signed -- what do we have, four G League guys? So we have plenty to get to eight."