James Harden is out on Sunday with left hamstring tightness. Because of the flurry of speculation that he might be headed to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade for Ben Simmons, that has everyone wondering if Harden is really injured or if this absence is simply intended to preserve his health for a pending deal. Nets head coach Steve Nash clapped back on Sunday against trade rumors in mic drop fashion.
The even bigger question, of course, is if the Nets really do intend to trade The Beard, a player who has been a perennial MVP candidate over the last decade. The Nets mortgaged their future to form their Big 3 with Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. That hasn’t gone according to plan. Prior to the matinee vs. the Denver Nuggets, coach Steve Nash fielded questions about his star’s future in Brooklyn.
Is Harden’s absence impacted at all by the pending trade deadline?
“No, no, I’ve talked to James, he wants to be here,” said the second-year head coach. “He wants to be here long term as well. So I don’t think anything’s changed other than noise from the outside,” said Nash. “James wants to be here, we’re building with James and we think we have the best chance to win with James. So I don’t think anything’s changed on the inside, in our locker room, in our communication. It’s just all the noise from the outside.”
It sounds like ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski might agree. Woj appeared on NBA Countdown on Saturday to throw a splash of cold water on trade rumors:
KD wants James Harden to stay in Brooklyn according to Woj on "NBA Countdown"#NBATwitter #NetsWorld pic.twitter.com/iaDaA2RdXh
— 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧' 𝐍𝐁𝐀 (@_Talkin_NBA) February 6, 2022
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But was there recently a formal conversation that took place?
“This has been a constant thing since the summer. He’s continually reiterated that he wants to be here and we’ve continually said that we want him here,” said the Hall of Fame point guard. “That that’s our best chance to win. So nothing’s changed from the communication that we’ve had and we just want to be conservative with him so we don’t lose him for big stretches. We think when he’s healthy and Kevin’s healthy and Kyrie plays, our team’s a totally different team. And we’re excited by it.”
Nash revealed that Harden actually has had an MRI on his left hamstring. He’s missing his third game since Jan. 25 with tightness and a lack of strength. Nash said it’s part of why he played poorly in Sacramento when he only had four points. Nash said the scan was clean of anything bad and they’re hopeful he’ll be back out there soon. The fact the team had a scan implies he is actually dealing with an injury.
One reporter wanted to make absolutely certain he was hearing Nash correctly on the subject of a Harden-Simmons trade.
It sounds like you’re not trading Harden?
“Yes, that’s correct,” said Nash.
Reporter: It sounded like, and I don't want to misinterpret you, you guys are not trading James Harden?
Steve Nash: "Yes that's correct."
peanut gallery: "mic drop." pic.twitter.com/ID5NdRArpQ
— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) February 6, 2022
Skeptical, cynical fans will note that coach’s often play good cop in these matters and Nash may not have the final say here. It’s Nets GM Sean Marks’ ultimate call on who to trade or who not to, and Nash could be providing some key leverage for negotiations that The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported the Nets will have this week.
But if you take Nash at his word, James Harden isn’t going anywhere.