Coach Steve Nash says Brooklyn Nets are not trading James Harden

DENVER -- The Brooklyn Nets do not plan to trade James Harden prior to Thursday's NBA trade deadline. Nets coach Steve Nash made that clear before Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets as Harden's name continues to pop up in trade speculation.

"Yes," Nash said. "That's correct."

Nash also said Harden has repeatedly told him that he wants to stay in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.

"I've talked to James; he wants to be here," Nash said. "He wants to be here long term as well, so I don't think anything's changed other than noise from the outside. James wants to be here, we're building with James and we think we have the best chance to win with James. I don't think anything's changed on the inside, in our locker room, in our communication, it's just all the noise from the [outside]."

After Harden turned down a three-year, $161 million extension in the offseason, he has four options available to him after this season, as ESPN's Bobby Marks notes. The first is he could exercise his $47.4 million player option for next season -- and extend for an additional four years and $222.8 million with the Nets. If he declines his player option, he can sign a five-year deal with the Nets worth $269.8 million, essentially the same figure as the first option.

The third option is that if Harden declines his player option, he can sign a four-year, $200 million contract with a team that has cap space. As Marks points out, the only teams projected to have that kind of room are the Detroit Pistons, the Orlando Magic and the San Antonio Spurs.

The final option, if Harden were to decide he wanted to go to a specific team, would be to exercise his player option and then sign the four-year, $222.8 million extension six months after a trade is completed. Much of the league speculation about this scenario centers on a possible reunion with Daryl Morey, who was general manager during Harden's time with the Houston Rockets and who is now president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. This would not hard cap the Sixers and it would allow the Nets to take back players in a deal, Marks notes.

Nash sounded outwardly confident Sunday that the communication between Harden and the organization remains strong.

"This has been a constant thing since the summer," Nash said. "He's continually reiterated that he wants to be here. And we've continually said that we want him here and that that's our best chance to win so nothing's changed from the communication that we've had."

Nets guard Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments after Sunday's 124-104 loss to the Nuggets.

"I think James can speak better to that than I can," Irving said. "We've had conversations but I'm just getting back into the swing of things, how all those media plants start going around with rumors and stuff like that, I really do not concern myself with that. So the few conversations that we've had, he's been really committed, and we just hold him to his word, but obviously when we're going out to play games we can't even really think about it, so we would love to have him in the lineup, at his optimum healthy version of himself, and then we'll let the rest take care of it, but who knows? Who knows what's going to happen?"

In the short term, Harden missed his second straight game Sunday because of left hamstring tightness. He had an MRI on Saturday in Utah that showed there was tightness, but the Nets are hopeful the issue will resolve itself with more rest.

"The scan is pretty good," Nash said. "But there's a tightness and a strength deficit, so for us we just don't want to take any chances. We know last year we lost him for an extended period; we want to be conservative and make sure he resumes full strength so that there isn't an extended absence."

Harden also missed a Jan. 26 loss to the Nuggets with the same injury. The Nets, who have lost eight straight games, return home Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.

"It's day-to-day," Nash said. "It's a matter of does that strength get back to where we feel confident and he feels confident that we're not risking anything. That's what we're dealing with right now."

While Harden's availability Tuesday is unknown, Irving will not play, as he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore cannot play in home games because of New York's vaccination mandate. Irving said Sunday that he is still holding out hope that the city's rule will change and he will be able to play in the future.

"I'm keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen in these next few days or the next week," Irving said. "Just crossing my fingers that something can come up either before the All-Star break or even just after. So I'm definitely keeping a positive attitude in that sense."

The Nets also continue to be without Kevin Durant. Nash said there is no specific timetable for Durant's return as he recovers from a sprained MCL in his left knee but that the Nets are pleased with the way his recovery is coming together.

"We feel really good about his recovery so far," Nash said. "I think he's well on his way. There's been no setbacks and everything's gone to plan or then some, and so we feel really positive about the progress he's making and that a return will be a full one and hopefully not in too long a period."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported after the injury, which occurred in a Jan. 15 win, that the Nets were optimistic Durant would be out only four to six weeks.

"Kevin's good," Nash said. "I think he's working away back home with our physios and strength coaches, that we kept a little team behind for him and LaMarcus [Aldridge], and so Kevin's excited to be back on the court shooting a little bit, he's got a ways to go, but his progress has been great and I think he's gotten a lift by being back out there and touching the wood as he always says and shooting the ball."

The Nets also are missing Joe Harris (ankle surgery), Aldridge (sprained ankle) and Nic Claxton (left hamstring tightness). Despite the injuries, the string of losses and finishing 0-5 on this West Coast trip, Nash remains optimistic that better days are ahead for his beleaguered group.

"You're talking about some pretty great players that are out of the lineup," Nash said. "This roster's built on talent. Rosters are built on talent. And so getting some talent back will definitely help add reinforcements. Everyone can go back to their more natural roles. It's an incremental leap, I think, in our ability to execute."