The Brooklyn Nets aren't feeling a sense of urgency to get James Harden back in the lineup after losing Kyrie Irving in Sunday's 107-96 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I don’t want James rushed back," Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters after the game. "If he’s able to play next game or the game after, that’s fantastic. If he’s not, I don’t want to rush him back."
Irving was limited to 17 minutes after rolling his ankle, and the team said the seven-time All-Star suffered a right ankle sprain. That left Kevin Durant as the only healthy member of Brooklyn's Big Three.
The team pretty much weathered the storm without Harden, taking the first two games of the series and losing by just three points in Game 3. As the 2017-18 MVP continues to deal with a hamstring issue, that may have remained the case were it not for Irving going down as well.
Suddenly, Brooklyn looks a lot more vulnerable when Joe Harris or Blake Griffin becomes the second scoring option for Kevin Durant.
The solution certainly isn't accelerating Harden's recovery so that he might get the Nets' quest for a championship back on track.
Durant had a first-hand look at how much blowback a franchise can get when some perceive it leaned on a star player before he was physically ready.
Almost immediately after Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in the 2019 Finals, the Golden State Warriors had to respond to questions about whether the 11-time All-Star had been at risk of a worse injury after having battled back from a calf strain.
Some of the criticism toward the Warriors later came from Irving.
At the very least, a run to the Finals became the expectation for the Nets once they acquired Harden. But the organization has to maintain a long-term outlook, too.
The All-Star trio of Durant, Harden and Irving are all signed through at least 2021-22. As disappointing as it would be to fall short of the Finals now, the Nets can't afford to risk jeopardizing next year's chances as well.