When eight-time all-star James Harden was finally traded to the Brooklyn Nets on January 14 he knew he was headed into a situation that would be different than what he was used to. Harden has played with talented players in the past such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Dwight Howard. Those situations are nothing like playing with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Harden knew that teaming up with players of that caliber meant a reduced role, including less ball-handling responsibility. A complete 180 from how he was used to playing in Houston. Now that Harden is starting to settle into his new role in Brooklyn, he is having the time of his life.
James Harden Having Fun in Brooklyn
“I was in a role for 8 years controlling the ball, dominating the ball. Now, it is a different experience for me,” The Beard told Michel A. Scotto of HoopsHype. “But it’s still great. It is still basketball at the end of the day. I am lucky to be able to do more than just one thing on the basketball court. It’s fun”
When Rockets fans caught wind of Harden’s statement, many of them were not happy about it:
Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!
The effects of The Beard’s decreased role were not on display in his first two games with the Nets because Kyrie was still out. He debuted with a 30-point triple-double and followed up with another 30-point performance in his second game. However, since Kyrie’s return, Harden’s scoring has significantly decreased.
“I just want to come in and get a feel for what is going on,” Harden told reporters over Zoom after Saturday’s win over the Miami Heat. “Obviously, I can be more aggressive offensively, but we got more than enough scorers and guys that can put the ball in the basket,” Harden said. “I just got to pick and choose my spots, which I feel like I’m doing okay but facilitating, getting guys shots, getting bigs finishes at the rim, and just trying to be solid defensively.”
Playmaking Is Harden’s Greatest Strength
Harden may be one of the greatest scorers in the history of the NBA, but the real strength of his game is his playmaking ability. He is averaging 11.3 assists per game in his six games with the Nets. Nets head coach Steve Nash has used Harden’s playmaking ability to his advantage with Brooklyn’s new-look offense. “Where he’s invaluable is playmaking skills for us,” Nash told reporters over Zoom on Saturday. “So often, he found guys for layups or wide-open 3s and created and distorted the defense.”
While the scoring has not been there for James in his last three games, his presence on the floor has still been felt with his ability to create for his teammates. One teammate who has felt the effects of Harden’s presence is Nets starting center DeAndre Jordan. Before The Beard’s arrival, DeAndre had not scored in double digits all season. Since the trade, he has scored double-digits three times. “Now we have a full team,” DeAndre told reporters on a recent Zoom call. “We know where we need to get better. We say it every game. We say it every practice, whenever we can practice. We’ve just got to be able to figure it out on the fly right now.”
The Nets look to be putting it together with their second straight win over the defending Eastern Conference Champions. They now sit at fifth in the East and are 1.5 games back of the conference’s top spot.