James Harden's League-Leading Minutes Played Concerns Nets HC Steve Nash

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2021

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) plays against the against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash expressed concern Tuesday over how many minutes superstar guard James Harden has been playing. 

According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Nash said:

"I'm concerned about the minutes. I'm not sure what the answer is, though. He controls the game. He hasn't shot the ball well since the [All-Star] break, but he [makes threes], he gets to the line. He makes assists, rebounds, steals. He's great around the basket. ... So it's hard to take him off the floor because he makes his teammates better."

Harden leads the NBA with 38.0 minutes per game, and the Nets have been leaning on him even more heavily with Kevin Durant out since last month with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving out for the next few games while tending to a family matter.

Brooklyn acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets early in the season in a four-team trade.

In 30 games for the Nets, Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 11.5 assists and 8.7 rebounds, while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Even when Durant and Irving are healthy and in the lineup, the offense has run through Harden, and he has essentially served as the point guard and primary distributor.

His role was even greater Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers with KD and Kyrie out, and he didn't disappoint, registering 25 points, 17 assists and seven rebounds in just shy of 40 minutes.

The Nets won the game 116-112 and have now won eight of their past nine games and 16 of their past 18. Durant and Irving have missed time during that stretch, but Harden has been the one constant, appearing in each contest.

All told, Harden has missed only one game since his arrival in Brooklyn, and over his past 10 games, he has played 39 minutes or more on six occasions.

Nash would be hard-pressed to restrict Harden's minutes or rest him until Durant and/or Irving return, especially since the Nets are in a battle for first place in the Eastern Conference.

With a 30-14 record, the Nets trail the Philadelphia 76ers by one game for the No. 1 seed. There may be added emphasis on nabbing the top seed considering how the playoff matchups may materialize.

The Milwaukee Bucks are currently the No. 3 seed at 28-14, and they trail the Sixers by just two games for first place. There is a huge drop-off after that with the Atlanta Hawks sitting in fourth at just 22-21.

That means the No. 1 seed would likely get to face a team hovering around .500 in the second round of the playoffs, while the No. 2 seed would have to face one of the few elite teams in the East.

The Nets would undoubtedly prefer a second-round matchup with the Hawks than the Sixers or Bucks, and that may be the reason why Nash has been hesitant to cut back Harden's minutes thus far.