After missing two games earlier this month with a hamstring injury, Brooklyn Nets star James Harden returned to the lineup on Monday night. It proved to be a short-lived return, however, as he was limited to just four minutes in the Nets' win over the New York Knicks.
After handing out three assists and grabbing a rebound, Harden checked out of the game early in the first quarter due to continued tightness in his hamstring. He did not return, and on Tuesday was diagnosed with a hamstring strain. The team announced that he'll be out at least 10 days, and will be re-evaluated at that point.
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Following the Nets' win on Monday, head coach Steve Nash said the team was planning to be cautious with Harden, and that was before the MRI revealed a new muscle strain. Now that there's an official diagnosis, you would have to imagine the Nets will be even more careful with their star guard.
Harden has been an extremely durable player throughout his career, and often rejected attempts to have him rest down the stretch when he was playing for the Houston Rockets, even if he was dealing with nagging injuries. The fact that he didn't feel comfortable battling through this hamstring issue was a good indication of how much it was affecting him.
Losing Harden for at least 10 days obviously isn't good news, but at least for now there's no indication that he won't be fully fit for the playoffs, and that's really all that matters for Brooklyn. And with Kevin Durant closing in on a return from his own hamstring injury, the Nets have the flexibility to give Harden all the time he needs to recover.
There are important seeding implications here. The Nets and 76ers are tied in the loss column and play next Wednesday in Philadelphia. The season series is tied 1-1, so not only will the winner gain ground in the standings, but will also claim the tiebreaker.