James Harden 'Excited For The Challenge' With Nets While Kevin Durant Is Sidelined By Injury

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JB Baruelo

Entering the 2021-22 NBA season with the "Big Three" of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets have emerged as one of the top favorites to fully dominate the Eastern Conference and win the 2022 NBA championship title. Unfortunately, since the season started, the Nets continue to be haunted by injuries. The Nets may have finally allowed Kyrie Irving to rejoin the team but after only playing two games with their "Big 3," they lost another member of their superstar trio to an injury.

Kevin Durant Suffers MCL Injury

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After undergoing an MRI, Durant was diagnosed with a sprained MCL of his left knee that is expected to put him on the sideline for at least four to six weeks. Luckily, Dr. Justen Elbayer, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at NYU Langone Health, told the New York Post that Durant's injury won't require surgery and is set to heal on its own.

Though he's still expected to miss plenty of games, Durant could return to the court before the real battle begins in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

James Harden Ready To Take Kevin Durant's Spot

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In a recent interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, via Twitter, Harden was asked what adjustments the Nets would need to make while Durant is recovering from an injury.

"Nothing changes," Harden told Haynes. "My role is to lead this team to a win whoever is on the court, and I will go out and compete at a high level every night. We have a great group of guys who will have the opportunity to step up and I am excited for the challenge because we will need everyone's contribution to compete for a championship."

James Harden Steps Up

The Nets would definitely miss Durant's presence on the court. While he's out, Harden is expected to take charge as the Nets' leader and No. 1 option on the offensive end of the floor. Filling in KD's spot is indeed a tough task, but Harden isn't new to leadership roles.

Before he was traded to the Nets in January last year, Harden served as the face of the Houston Rockets' franchise for nine years. In his final full season with the Rockets, he averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.8 steals while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc, per ESPN.

Kyrie Irving Lessens Burden On James Harden's Shoulders

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The Nets won't need to fully rely on Harden since they also have Irving. The New York vaccine mandate is currently preventing Irving from playing at home. Luckily for the Nets, most of their upcoming games will be on the road. When he's 100 percent healthy, the presence of Irving on the court would help the Nets lessen the burden on Harden's shoulders on the offensive end of the floor.

Like Harden, Irving is also a prolific scorer, a great playmaker, and an elite three-point shooter.