Harden ‘very, very confident’ he will return before playoffs

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In two losses last week to the Bucks, it was evident how much the Nets miss James Harden despite all the other talent on the roster. The ball didn’t move the same way against a good Milwaukee defense, leading to a lot more isolation ball that just wasn’t efficient enough.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Harden said he expected to return for a couple of games before the playoffs started. Via Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

“Very, very confident,” said Harden [of a regular season return]. “I guess the mark I have to hit is the work that I did (Thursday), and I have a couple of those without any feeling. That’s pretty much the mark. But I’m very confident I’ll be back before the postseason, yeah.

“I feel really good. Just trying to get my conditioning back. Just changing speeds, changing direction, making sure you know, the power and quickness is there to be able to move how I move. But so far, so good. (Thursday) was really good and we’ve just got to keep building on that.”

While it’s fair to ask if Harden will be slowed at all or have any lingering effects of the hamstring strain that has had him out since late March, he seems confident it will not.

The Nets’ offense is 4.1 points per 100 possessions better when Harden is on the court this season, and the Nets are 27-7 in the games he plays. He is the guy who moves Brooklyn’s needle from “potential contender” to “favorite to win it all.” Kyrie Irving ceded primary playmaking responsibilities to Harden, Kevin Durant just blends with him, and the three seem to have developed a fast chemistry.

However, that chemistry was built over just seven games and has yet to be tested. That will come during the playoffs.