Even if Nets don’t trade James Harden, he won’t be in the lineup on Thursday

James Harden Steve Nash Nets
James Harden watches from the bench during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

And now we wait.

With Tuesday’s game between the Nets and Boston Celtics come and gone, all eyes are watching to see if James Harden will still be a Brooklyn Net. We already know he won’ be on the court Thursday for Brooklyn in Washington D.C.

Not only has Harden been the center of trade speculation for the past two weeks, but even if the Nets don’t deal him to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade that would involve Ben Simmons, the question of his health persists as well. The Nets downgraded him to out on Wednesday night for their meeting with the Wizards.

Harden missed the Nets’ loss to the Celtics on Tuesday with tightness in his left hamstring, marking the third consecutive game he’s been out with the ailment. And it’s not a given that he will play against the Washington Wizards later in the week — baring he isn’t traded before then.

“I think it’s premature, but I also have no idea what the strength tests are,” Nash said on Tuesday after the loss to Boston. “What his level is right now. I’d have to ask performance, but really we’re just trying to get him stronger. Get him back to a place where he feels confident. His performance feels confident and that he can go out there and explode, and be ready to go.”

[READ: Shorthanded Nets fall to Celtics in brutal loss in final game before trade deadline]

Patty Mills inadvertently created some confusion Tuesday morning when he said that Harden had looked like the “same-old, same-old James” during shootaround at the Barclays Center. DeAndre’ Bembry tempered that later when he addressed reporters.

Nash later clarified that Harden didn’t actually take part in shootaround and that he was there to support his teammates.

“He’ll do court work, but I think taking the wheels off and exploding is still something he wants to cover,” Nash said. “When he shoots he looks like James, but as far as changing ends and accelerating and all that stuff, I think we’ve been conservative right now to continue to regain that strength.

“There is a deficit right now. Just to be safe and to look long term there’s no point in us risking a big patch of the season for him to be back where he was last year for long stretches.”

Of course, the cynics out there have linked Harden’s recent absence to ongoing rumors that the Nets and Sixers are trying to work out a trade involving the Nets superstar. Fans and media alike have been paying close attention to see if Harden has been on the Brooklyn bench on nights he hasn’t played.

He was spotted alongside his teammates on Tuesday during their game against Boston.

The Nets have been in freefall the past few weeks after Kevin Durant went down with an MCL sprain and other key players have been sidelined by injury, It culminated in the Nets dropping their ninth straight game on Tuesday in ugly fashion as they played without a single one of their superstars on the court.

Nash and the Nets have tried to keep their current circumstances in perspective, and despite ongoing rumors involving Harden and other names on the current Brooklyn roster, tried to ignore the speculation ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Nash went as far as to say he didn’t expect the Nets to make any trades.