James Harden pushing for shocking Game 5 return with Nets’ season on the line

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With Brooklyn facing a desperate Eastern Conference semifinal Game 5, injured James Harden has been upgraded from out to doubtful Tuesday vs. Milwaukee.

“I don’t know if (he’s out) or not. I might have to wait,” Nets coach Steve Nash had said Monday. “He’s working out, so I have no idea if that means he has a chance for (Game 5) or not. I think there’s a plan behind the scenes that I don’t totally know what the deal is and then they’ll give us an update. But he’s working out.”

Harden went down just 43 seconds into this second-round series with what has been deemed right hamstring tightness. The Nets won the first two games without him at Barclays Center, but proceeded to drop the next two in Milwaukee to see the Bucks level the series and steal the momentum.

Brooklyn also lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained ankle, leaving them without Harden, Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. In dire need of a point guard – and a victory – Harden was doing on-court work Monday in hopes of being able to return.

“We’ll see,” Nash said. “We’ll see how he does with his workouts and how he progresses. I’ve tried to leave him alone as far as that goes, let him rehab. He’s still a big part of our team in meetings and when we travel and all that stuff. He’s just been great. I just want to let him do his work and focus on that. When he’s ready, he or the performance staff will let us know.”

Harden missed 18 straight games with a strained right hamstring near the end of the regular season. He got hurt again in the first minute of the series opener on June 5.

“I think it’s positive,” Nets forward Joe Harris said of Harden being upgraded. “I don’t think they would throw that out there if his health was still in question. That’s the biggest thing at the end of the day that guys are healthy.

“You don’t ever want to put anybody in a compromised position because the worst thing that could happen is come back to early and then you start back over from where you were at in the beginning.”

Nash has described the All-Star guard as “progressing in the right direction,” and although he struggled to define what that progress was, did say that Harden had to string together consecutive days of high-intensity practice loads before being cleared.

“We hope…we feel like he’s been progressing really well and he’s having a workout,” said Nash.

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