It only took one game for Brooklyn Nets star James Harden to more than double his free throw attempts for the season. After limping through a few subpar performances in Brooklyn’s 2-3 start, Harden came alive as the Nets pummeled a struggling Pacers team at home.
While his triumphant bounce-back game was a welcome sight for fans, what happened with just under five minutes left in the first quarter on Friday may have even bigger long-term benefits.
Taking rookie Chris Duarte to the basket, Harden was hacked across both arms as he looked to put up a floater. As has been happening often lately, officials missed an obvious call, allowing the Pacers to run the ball back the other way.
What happened next was crucial. With Joe Harris at the free-throw line, Harden and Nets Coach Steve Nash had a conversation with an official about the blatantly missed call. The Brooklyn broadcast showed the reply seemingly on loop, also looking for why the whistle was swallowed.
Nets: This conversation with the official could be a game-changer
After the complaints from Nash and Harden, NBA officials began giving the foul calls to James he hasn’t been getting all season. The result was a 19-free-throw-attempt night for Harden, who hasn’t shot that many since July 2020 when he shot 21 with the Rockets.
While I wouldn’t expect Harden to get nearly that many attempts per night, having 29 points after his early struggles should do a lot for his confidence in both his game and getting calls.
I would think the increased noise about no-calls from guys like Harden and Trae Young has to be making its way to NBA referees one way or another, and the moment with Nash and James could signal a turning point for them. While James does have a tendency to seek fouls, there were definitely some obvious no-calls in the early season to address.
A huge part of Harden’s multiple seasons as the NBA’s leading scorer was predicated on getting to the line. He might not be able to do that as often as he used to with the new rules, but it’s good news for the Nets that he still can on occasion.
If Harden starts getting to the free-throw line with regularity, and Kevin Durant continues his hot start to the season, the Nets should be well equipped to put their bad start in the past and get back to competing for a championship.