New York Daily News

Only the injury bug has Nets beat this year

- KRISTIAN WINFIELD

The Nets need some Raid. Or maybe it’s OFF! How about a fly swatter? Or maybe, just maybe, they need to catch a damn break. The injury bug has infested the Nets, who haven’t been healthy since Game 3, when Spencer Dinwiddie’s season ended with a partial ACL tear in his right knee. One man down would be the healthiest the Nets have been all season.

To steal a line from Young Dolph, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s a m-f ‘nother.” Kevin Durant has missed 22 straight games with a hamstring injury, and that’s after missing two sets of three games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Kyrie Irving has gone on two personal leaves of absence this season, and now, as Durant prepares to make his return, it’s James Harden exiting the lineup again after aggravatin­g his right hamstring injury in the first quarter against the Knicks on Monday.

“It’s unfortunat­e that emotionall­y, we feel it,” said Kyrie Irving. “It’s tough to move onto the next thing after one of our guys goes down with an injury.”

Even fallen.

Those are only the stars: Reserve guard Tyler Johnson is out two-to-three weeks minimum after a scary non-contact knee injury, and Landry Shamet aggravated his right ankle sprain and is day-to-day after totaling 30 points in his last two games.

“Yeah, man. It sucks,” said veteran forward Jeff Green. “It’s really tough, especially when we’re trying to get healthy, especially what happened in the last game with TJ and Landry. So now James. We have to just come together collective­ly and figure out ways to win. Next man up and figure out what we need to do against New Orleans on Wednesday.”

Nets coach Steve Nash said Harden had “an awareness” that something was off with his hamstring. The MRI was the

Ironman has clean and his strength test was normal, but Harden felt the need to pull himself from the game four minutes into the first quarter.

“Tonight I thought the right decision was not to take any risks with him. Who knows? This may linger,” Nash said. “It may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game, but it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re gonna err on the side of caution.”

For a team with 41 total All-Star appearance­s spread across its top-heavy roster, the Nets’ nemesis isn’t another team. The Lakers are dealing with a similar issue as they’ve spiraled to the West’s sixth seed with injuries to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Nets’ championsh­ip odds hinge on their ability to get and stay healthy, an unfamiliar feeling for a team that’s been hurt virtually all season. They have what might be the deepest group of stars the league has seen in recent history, but if availabili­ty is the best ability, the Nets have not been able for most of the season.

The injury bug has hit a number of teams this year. After all, the Knicks were short their biggest big man, shot-blocker Mitchell Robinson, who broke his right foot after breaking his right hand. njuries have piled across the league. It’s the trade-off for a league that forced a 72-game season on its teams with just a week’s worth of training camp and another week of preseason before tipoff just before Christmas Day. The Nets, though, are making no excuses.

“We have a positive attitude in our locker room, a winning mentality, and regardless of who’s out there or not, we’re going to go for it,” Nash said. “We’re going to find a way to come together and win. You can’t win every night, but you try to figure it out and solve problems every night and the guys were terrific tonight again at finding a way.”

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