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Brooklyn’s Big 3 was two-thirds of the way back.
Newly minted All-Star starter Kyrie Irving returned to the Nets’ lineup Thursday to face LeBron James and the Lakers after missing the last game with lower-back tightness.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee soreness) was also back after sitting out the come-from-behind win in Phoenix. However, Kevin Durant missed a third consecutive game with a hamstring injury, and coach Steve Nash offered no timetable for the star forward’s return.
“What they want to see is improved strength,” Nash said. “Usually when you have a little injury like this, there’s a strength deficit, and until you have that strength back, it’s not necessarily safe to resume play. So there’s a few progressions he’s got to meet.
“Other than that, we’ve just got to monitor it and see how it goes. The positive thing is he’s had a few days of rest now and is improving. But there’s no timeline still on when we’ll see him again.”
Durant — averaging 29.0 points and 7.3 rebounds — missed the wins over Sacramento and Phoenix. He’s only played one game in the last seven, also missing three straight due to COVID-19 contact tracing quarantine.
The Lakers were without Anthony Davis (Achilles). Meanwhile, after Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel had talked in the pregame about how he was looking forward to seeing Dennis Schroder defend Irving, the Lakers guard was a last-minute scratch for COVID-19 protocols.
James Harden entered Thursday averaging 7.3 rebounds for a Nets team that has struggled on the glass this season. And his 8.4 boards since arriving in Brooklyn are on pace to surpass his career high.
“Well, somebody’s got to get them,” Nash quipped.
Much was made of Nash and assistant Mike D’Antoni returning to Phoenix, but they also tried to run their Suns success back with the Lakers. It didn’t work, with Nash fracturing his leg in the second game of the 2012-13 season — missing seven weeks — and then suffering nerve damage. Eventually he missed all of 2014-15 with a back injury and retired.
“It’s kind of a tale of two sides, my experience with the Lakers,” Nash recalled. “It was a disaster in that I couldn’t find my health and basically my career unraveled here after hours and hours and hours of fighting for whatever I could. It just wasn’t to be.
“Then, the other side of the coin was just some incredible people inside the Lakers organization that were so good to me, and an incredible experience to be a part of that fabric and to get to know some of those people so well and to get to feel that connection to them was amazing. So, it was an incredible experience and a disaster all at once — and I don’t regret a minute of it.”