Brooklyn Nets star James Harden did not play against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night as he continues to deal with neck soreness suffered after he collided with Garrison Mathews in the team’s win over the Wizards on Sunday.
“I’m sure James would have wanted to play tonight,” head coach Steve Nash said. “I don’t think it’s safe for him to play tonight, and I think sometimes, you have to protect him from himself. I think tonight it was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. It’s pretty sore.”
Harden was listed as questionable ahead of the Nets’ game against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. After he warmed up, the team decided he would be available to play.
After that game, Harden said he expected to face the Jazz if he was feeling well when he woke up Wednesday, but Nash said that the minutes Harden has racked up over the course of the season “concerned” him.
“I’m concerned about the minutes,” Nash said Tuesday night. “I’m not sure what the answer is, though. He controls the game.”
When Harden was initially hit by Mathews on Sunday, he stayed down on the court for several minutes while being tended to by medical staff. He stayed in that game and said afterward he felt a twitching in his neck.
Harden said he came “very close” to not playing on Tuesday.
“I love to be out there and taking on the challenge of finding ways to win games,” Harden said. “Obviously, when you’re hurt, you’re hurt. You sit out. But I try to find a way to just go out there and make an impact and play if I’m able to, if I’m not risking anything, if that makes sense.”
He continued: “I think everybody knows I love to play. I don’t really rest. I love to hoop. I love to be out there and be there for my teammates. I feel like if I’m on the court, my teammates have a better chance of winning. So that’s just my mindset.”
This is the second game Harden has missed for the Nets since he was traded in January.