While the team is still finding its chemistry, and really needs some answers on the defensive end, James Harden is really establishing himself as the main playmaker for the Brooklyn Nets. It’s been a month since he was traded from the Houston Rockets, and offensively he’s answered most of the glaring questions about how he’d fit in with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
In 13 games with the Nets so far, Harden is averaging 23.3 point, which over a full season would be his lowest output since 2011-12, his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder when he was still a dynamic sixth-man alongside Durant and Russell Westbrook. His assists, meanwhile are at a career-high level at 11.3 per game with Brooklyn, as are his 8.2 rebounds. He has four triple-doubles in those 13 games.
Harden made it clear before the season that he wanted a trade from the Houston Rockets, with the Nets being his prefered destination. After eight games, in which is appeared that the former MVP was out of shape and not playing super hard, he got his wished. During an interview with Rachel Nichols, he admitted that he doesn’t like how things played out in that last month with the Rockets.
“I don’t like it all because that’s not who I am. The drama, the extra… whatever you want to call it. The negativity; for me I don’t like negative energy. It’s draining. So I don’t like necessarily what happened. I feel like it could have happened a lot smoother, a lot easier, but it is what it is.”
James Harden sits down & opens up about his new role in Brooklyn, what he didn’t like about his departure from Houston, and the Nets’ championship chances: “We’re more than confident that it’s going to be difficult for a team to beat us four times in a best-of-seven series.” pic.twitter.com/rZKkwFs1jg
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 12, 2021
“No. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I wasn’t trying to be selfish,” James Harden said, when asks if he would have done anything differently in forcing the trade. “I believe the front office knew where I stood, and what I wanted, I apologize for how it went down, but I guess I had to do what I had to do to go where I wanted to go. And credit to Houston, they didn’t have to trade me to Brooklyn, they could’ve traded me anywhere, but those are some stand-up guys over there. It ended up the right way, I just didn’t like how that month or two played out.”
The Brooklyn Nets are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. While they hemorrhage points many nights, their offense is playing at a historic level, and they’ve played up to their best competition, with wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Clippers since the Harden trade. The team is also 4-1 with Harden, Irving, and Durant all active, which has been a relative rarity given contact tracing issues, Kyrie Irving’s absence from the team, and general rest for the stars.
James Harden also confirmed that he’s happy to be playing with other stars so he doesn’t need to play the same, ball-dominant way he did with the Houston Rockets, where he won the 2018 MVP Award and was a six-time First-Team All-NBA player.
“The situation that I was with in Houston, consistently and every single night having to get 40 points to give ourselves a chance to win for a long extent of years, is draining. And so, just be able to have the skill set of guys for whom you can be a playmaker and you can get guys involved and not having necessarily to worry about scoring every possession is a little bit relieving for me.”
The Brooklyn Nets should be back at full strength on Saturday, for a big game at the Golden State Warriors, Durant’s other former team. Stephen Curry has been playing out of his mind, but if Durant, Harden, and Irving all go, we’ll see if he can keep up with Brooklyn’s firepower. Saturday’s game tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
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