Nets’ Harden to play at Lakers on Christmas

    Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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The Brooklyn Nets will have James Harden on Christmas, but Kyrie Irving will not travel to Los Angeles, and Kevin Durant remained in health and safety protocols as of Friday morning.

Nets coach Steve Nash said Harden will play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas night after he cleared health and safety protocols on Thursday. And the Nets will have forward DeAndre’ Bembry, who was cleared from health and safety protocols.

As of Friday morning, the Nets still had nine players in health and safety protocols, including Durant, Irving and LaMarcus Aldridge. Bruce Brown, James Johnson, Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr., Kessler Edwards and Day’Ron Sharpe also remain in health and safety protocols.

Nash said that any Net who is cleared from protocols could still rejoin the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Dec. 27. Things remain very fluid for the Nets, who had their last three games postponed.

“We just do the best we can. We got a lot of guys coming off extended break,” Nash said before the team flew to Los Angeles on Friday. “Nobody’s in great condition, so we have to manage the group, try to be as competitive as possible and at the same time, be careful. Guys coming out and playing the game after an absence like this is tricky.

“We will do what we can. A lot of these decisions are still to be made, before the game, during the game, as the game goes on. We just have to be very fluid, adaptable and a great attitude and take it as an opportunity.”

Nash did say that Irving will not join the team on this two-game road trip to Southern California. The point guard still has to ramp up once he is cleared from protocol before he can make his season debut. The Nets haven’t seen Irving on the court yet since deciding to let the point guard return to the team as a part-time player last week. Irving went into health and safety protocols on Dec. 18 along with Durant.

“No, we haven’t,” Nash said, when asked if he has seen Irving on the court yet. “He’s still in protocols. And he needs ramp up, so we won’t see Kyrie on this trip.”

Irving has not been with the team on a regular basis since the first week of training camp at the start of October. The team decided back during the preseason to not have their point guard be a part-time player, since Irving cannot play in games at Barclays Center because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.

Since Irving cannot play home games, the Nets will have to wait until another road trip for their point guard to possibly return. After these two upcoming games in Los Angeles, the Nets are not on the road again until Jan. 5 at Indiana. After that, they don’t play another road game until Jan. 12 at Chicago.

If Irving isn’t back by then, a road game at Cleveland on Jan. 17 could be a possibility as well. The Nets, though, are beginning to finally get bodies back. Harden will play in his first game since playing against Atlanta on Dec. 10. And Nash said center Nic Claxton (wrist) will be available to play on Saturday.

The Nets were able to gather for a light practice on Friday morning after shutting things down earlier this week with as many as 10 players on health and safety protocols. Point guard Patty Mills says the Nets’ pause has felt “like a mini offseason.”

“In a certain way, we have been dealing with different parts of adversity throughout the whole season,” Mills said. “On-court, off-court, COVID protocols, injuries, whatever it may be. This is just another one of those obstacles in the road, I think.

“The vibe today compared to how it has been the whole week, to see everyone again, it felt like a mini offseason, and then, ‘Alright, let’s get back to business.’ There’s still a lot of work cut out for us knowing who is still out and yet to come back.”

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