Prior to their 134-129 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, the Nets announced Harden would be out indefinitely after a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury. After the game, Irving told reporters he and the rest of the team "all want reps together" but that Harden's health is paramount:
With Tuesday's win, Brooklyn improved to 39-19, putting the team only 0.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
And Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant have all been excellent individually this season. Irving and Durant are averaging 27.3 points apiece, while Harden has nearly posted a triple-double (25.4 points, 11.0 assists, 8.7 rebounds) since joining the squad.
However, the trio has played in seven games and totaled 186 minutes together so far, per NBA.com.
The Los Angeles Clippers' collapse in last year's playoffs was a prime example of how the postseason is an entirely different beast from the regular season. Granted, the Nets haven't experienced the kind of drama that ultimately provided the signs for Los Angeles' exit.
But it remains to be seen how head coach Steve Nash will be able to make it work with Durant, Harden and Irving on the court at the same time. It doesn't count for much given the limited sample, but the Nets have a 114.0 defensive rating when they've played together, according to NBA.com.
Accelerating Harden's recovery isn't advisable since it would leave him at risk of suffering another injury. Brooklyn would undoubtedly benefit from him returning as quickly as possible, though, so the team could get a better feel of what things are like at full strength.