The Brooklyn Nets had the chance to break the Phoenix Suns’ 15-game win streak on Saturday, but failed to do so. The Nets were in a hole early on and trailed by as many as 22 points, while the Suns enjoyed a wire-to-wire victory. It didn’t help that James Harden didn’t play anywhere near his best … despite the fact he had a triple-double.
Harden finished with 12 points (on 4-of-15 shooting), 13 rebounds and 14 assists. He missed all six of his attempts from the 3-point line, contributing to Brooklyn’s poor 30.4% from downtown. Not to mention, he finished with seven turnovers, 35% of the Nets’ total of 20. Put all of that together, and it’s really not enough to take down one of the best teams in the league.
The nine-time All-Star was vocal earlier on in the season about the difficulties he was facing after he spent the offseason rehabbing his hamstring injury. Brooklyn’s nearly a quarter of the way through the regular season, and Harden’s game still isn’t where it should be if the Nets hope to make a deep playoff run.
And it somehow gets worse. Following Brooklyn’s 113-107 loss on Saturday, Harden said that he’s still working to find some type of balance … and that “it’s been a little difficult.” Huh?
Should the Brooklyn Nets be worried about James Harden?
In Harden’s defense, he’s now being viewed as full-time facilitator as opposed to a part-timer, which was his role last year when Kyrie Irving was on the court. Sometimes Harden would take the ball up and run the offense if the Nets needed a chance of pace. But now they need that all of the time. And it’s not working out.
Harden leads the NBA with five turnovers per game — somehow more than Russell Westbrook’s average of 4.7 per game. After notching his seventh turnover on Saturday, Nets’ fans didn’t hold back with their disapproval of Harden’s performance.
There’s little room for Harden to misstep in an offense that’s already without Irving. It’s one thing to have an off night, but his inconsistency should now be a full-fledged concern given the ample time he’s had to adjust. Right now, it’s hard to watch Harden try to lead Brooklyn on the offensive end. Against Phoenix, he forced passes that weren’t there and launched up shots that he didn’t look confident in taking.
He doesn’t look like the same player the Nets traded for back in January. Harden played in 36 games for Brooklyn last year, so it’s not like he was thrust into an offense that he wasn’t entirely familiar with at the start of this season. He’s taken on a new-ish role in Irving’s absence, but even after keeping that in consideration, his level of play has been worrisome. He’s not comfortable. The new rule change with fouls has clearly affected him. However, it’s still hard to come to terms with his comments about it being difficult to figure out “whatever.” It doesn’t even seem like he knows what he’s talking about.
Kevin Durant can’t continue to shoulder the majority of the load for the Nets. He scored 39 points in Saturday’s loss, which was 21 more than the next highest scorers in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry. Patty Mills was the only other starter to score fewer points than Harden.
The Nets are 4-6 against teams above .500. Not good. That’ll have to improve, and it all starts with Harden figuring out “whatever” it is.