This stat proves that James Harden has more to worry about than the officials

Here we are, over half of the way through the regular season, and James Harden is still dissatisfied with the lack of consistency from the NBA’s officials. In the Brooklyn Nets loss to Minnesota on Sunday night, Harden finished with 13 points, which included four made free throws.

Harden’s struggles were painfully apparent at the start of the year. This season, the league’s emphasized not issuing foul calls on non-basketball moves. If you were asked to think about one player that had structured his game around making it to the free-throw line, it’d be Harden.

Therefore, he’s been frustrated. And his frustrations were understandable. That, along with the offseason that he spent rehabbing and not having Kyrie Irving for the first part of the season, affected Harden’s game.

His offseason issues are no longer plaguing him and Irving’s made his return to Brooklyn as a part-time player, but the free-throw dilemma is still hanging over Harden’s head.

However, he may be misdirecting the blame.

Is the free-throw line James Harden’s biggest issue for the Brooklyn Nets?

Against the Timberwolves, Harden shot 4-of-13 from the field (30.8%) and 25% from the 3-point line (1-of-4). He didn’t score at all in the fourth quarter and the Nets came up short, 136-125, to drop back down to second in the East.

Sunday’s field goal percentage was the lowest for him since he shot 25% from the field against Houston on Dec. 8.

After the game, Harden was asked why he isn’t getting the same calls from officials that he’s gotten in the past.

Nash was asked the same question.

Ironically, Harden’s made his way to the free-throw line nearly once more per game this year in comparison to last year. This season, his average is 8.1 attempts per game and last year it was 7.3 attempts.

So, what’s the issue? Regardless of the statistics, Harden’s frustrations are evident.

“It’s a good question,” Harden said. “I don’t know. I don’t even want to talk about it. But it’s definitely — when I get to the basket, it’s the same calls the guys are getting. Obviously, you can’t call all of them. But there’s ones where there’s clearly stiff-arms and trips and things like that. But on the other end, there’s no consistency. So it’s frustrating.”

Nash said that “there’s nights where it feels like he [Harden] gets targeted a little bit.”

Let’s take a look at a few of Harden’s other statistics. He’s averaging 22.7 points per game (the lowest for him since 2011-12), is shooting 41.9% from the field (the lowest for him since 2009-10), and is shooting 33.8% from the 3-point line (a career-low).

The issues that Harden’s had on the offensive end have been a problem, although as expected, his game has improved with Irving’s return.

However, in a game without Kevin Durant, he didn’t even attempt one shot in the fourth quarter? That’s unacceptable and goes beyond the foul line.

Harden and Nash are right, the officials do need to be more consistent, but Harden needs to be more consistent himself.

He dropped 37 points (13-of-24) in a win over San Antonio on Friday and then turned around and scored 24 fewer points in a loss to Minnesota. Irving, who finished with 30 points versus the Timberwolves, can’t do it alone.

Now, Brooklyn’s back at Barclays Center for back-to-back games, and it’ll be up to Harden to lead the way. The Nets need the best version of Harden, or else it’s going to be a long few weeks until Durant returns.