The Brooklyn Nets are fresh off a disappointing 114-104 loss to the Rockets. In what was expected to be a big game from James Harden in his return to the Toyota Center, Brooklyn couldn’t find a way to outlast Houston without Kevin Durant. What does this say about Harden?
The nine-time All-Star has seemingly hit a wall in his 13th year in the NBA. He’s struggled for several reasons, most notably his inability to make routine trips to the free-throw line and being tasked with running the Nets’ offense in Kyrie Irving’s absence. Brooklyn’s made it past 25 regular season games, and Harden’s play still hasn’t improved.
Sure, he had his best all-around game against the Knicks on Nov. 30, but that was the player that the Nets need him to be consistently. Against the Rockets on Wednesday night, Harden went 4-of-16 from the floor for a season-low 25%. Without Durant on the floor, who’s averaging a league-high 28.4 points per game, Harden still fell flat worse than ever. Huh? How?
On the court, Harden looks beyond uncomfortable. He’s averaging 5.0 turnovers per game, the most in the NBA. He’s currently shooting 40.1% from the field, the lowest mark of his career. Something’s not clicking, and it’s painful to watch.
What should the Brooklyn Nets do about James Harden and his poor play?
There’s a possibility that Harden won’t play on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks so he can get a breather, and if that’s the case, it’ll be a chance for Steve Nash to see how his team fares in his point guard’s absence. After all, this could be Harden’s first full and final year in Brooklyn. Harden’s started in all 25 of the Nets’ games, so if the offense excels without him, fans will have to at least begin to ponder if Brooklyn is better off without him.
And if that’s the case, what’s the recourse? One last impact trade before the deadline in the form of a star acquisition? Or maybe Harden gets moved to recoup some assets lost in the deal with Houston? It’d be hard to rule anything out at this point, especially since we’ve yet to see a consistent version of Harden, who was a bonafide superstar before these struggles, on the court this year.
It says a lot that his 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists against the Rockets still didn’t meet the necessary standard for him to lead the team to a win.
It seems as if Harden would benefit from moving to the shooting guard position, allowing for another player to take over the point guard role. If a trade doesn’t happen, Nash needs to restructure the offense so that Harden can be more of a contributor — at least when he’s on the floor alone. This offense runs through Durant, but there’s something to be said about it being catered to Harden when he’s the lone star on the floor.
Not to get off topic here, but does Harden’s struggles have you wondering why he didn’t sign an extension before the season began? There’s still the possibility that he could leave the Nets during the offseason, unless in a bizarre twist, he picks up his player option. Harden said that he doesn’t plan on leaving the organization, but there’s no way to know that for sure … given now there’s mounting evidence the team should not be paying a premium price to keep him aboard for years to come.
If Harden’s resting against the Hawks on Friday and the Nets can pull out a win against one of the more talent teams in the Eastern Conference, this topic of conversation will only grow louder. There’s a finite amount of time for the Nets to figure out how to live without Irving and emphasize Harden in a way where he’s maximizing his abilities.
If neither of those tasks get accomplished, you have to realize it’s possible changes could be on the way.