James Harden’s hand strain remains an issue for Nets

SACRAMENTO, California — James Harden may be back on the field, but he’s not back to 100 percent. And he may not be there for a while.

Although Harden returned to Phoenix on Tuesday from a hand strain, the problem is he admits he will have to hold out for a while until it fully heals.

“I couldn’t move my hand” [Saturday]. That’s why I didn’t play my last game. [Couldn’t move it] not at all’, says Harden. “I can move it and I can play.”

Harden, who had 12 assists but just four points in Wednesday’s 112-101 loss to the Kings, was not on the injury report. But when asked how he got through his comeback physically, he replied, “OK. Not good.”

Nash said after the loss that Harden appeared to have been gassed.

“I thought James looked tired,” Nash said. “He didn’t have his legs. It was one of those nights.”

The initial hand injury had nagged him for several weeks, but he had initially “thought it was nothing,” said coach Steve Nash. But he exacerbated the lifting and shooting during Friday’s practice.

James Harden appears to be making a pass while guarded by Davion Mitchell during the Nets’ 112-101 loss to the Kings.

He woke up in pain in San Francisco on Saturday morning for the Warriors game.

“It happened … probably a few weeks ago — just by going to the basket, making contact and hitting the ground,” Harden said. “It was already hurting me, but I was just playing through it. And I was lifting weights one day, one day before we went out, and I probably just annoyed it or something.

“The next morning I woke up and probably couldn’t move my hand at all. It actually woke up quite early. So I just called the trainer, my trainer, to find out what the hell was going on. The MRI was a strain. It has calmed down. I’m back in court. Just have to keep going.”

After shooting just 6 of 19 on his return, Harden acknowledged that his hand injury will take some management.

“Just keep getting treatment, keep the swelling down and ice it and listen to my trainers because they’re professionals,” Harden said.

Blake Griffin had a season high of 17 points and a good job in drop coverage against Phoenix. It was a second solid performance in a row after taking a plus-13 at Golden State. He followed it on Wednesday with nine points.

“He’s trying to do it right. He’s protecting the paint. Blake found some gaps for his shot and he did a really good job when he rolled into the basket and finished the basketball,” Harden said. “We just need that more consistently every night. That’s going to help our team.”

With LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) out, the Nets need Griffin. Day’Ron Sharpe only got 2:42 after not playing against the Warriors.

Aldridge’s injury doesn’t change the Nets’ plans to move Paul Millsap.

“Paul wants to go somewhere where he has a better chance of playing,” Nash said. “LaMarcus is a short-term injury and Day’Ron has played very well, so nothing has really changed there.”

The Nets would rather trade Millsap than forgo him, but his market is unclear. According to Bleacher Report, he would prefer to land in Chicago, but LA could be a candidate if he enters the buyout market.

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