Brooklyn Nets star James Harden returned to the floor for the team in a major way on Wednesday. Brooklyn defeated the San Antonio Spurs 128-116 and collected their third straight victory after previously dropping four consecutive games.
The Nets were excited to welcome back one of their All-Stars in Harden who proved that he is still the same Most Valuable Player candidate in his return. He finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 11 assists as in just 26 minutes of play.
The latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
James Harden Has a Message for His Doubters
Harden missed over a month of playing time with a hamstring strain that he suffered against the New York Knicks on April 5. This is the longest injury layoff of Harden’s career so naturally, there were questions about how good his conditioning would be during his first game back. ‘The Beard’ on the other hand was not concerned about the shape he would be in at all because he knows what he is capable of on the basketball court.
“Not to like brag or anything, but I’m like, really good at this game,” Harden said via NetsDaily. “I study the game. I’m very unselfish. I take the game and I play the right way. I don’t try and do anything I can’t do or anything that doesn’t help the team. That mindset right there keeps me in a really good place.”
The Nets offense looked much more fluid than it has over the last month with Harden out. ‘The Beard’ took control from the moment he entered the game in the second quarter and never let go of the reigns. His ability to locate his teammates and set the table for them proved to be too much for the Spurs as he had Gregg Popovich’s defense looking silly all night long.
“I know I can score the basketball, but I take pride in getting guys involved,” Harden continued. “Letting guys be involved in the offense and that way defensively, we can be locked in and it’s just a lot easier. I want everybody to get their shots, whether it’s rolls to the rim or three-point catch-and-shoots or whatever the case may be.”
Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!
Nic Claxton Excited To Have Harden Back
One of the immediate effects of Harden’s absence was that many of the Nets role players that were trending upward began to decline profusely after his injury. Particularly Nets’ big men Nic Claxton and DeAndre Jordan. Jordan did not play on Wednesday (Coaches’ decision), but Claxton did, and he had arguably his best game as a Net as he finished with a career-high 18 points. Claxton is overly excited to have his point guard back.
“It was beautiful playing with James [Harden] again. [He] opened things up for everybody,” Claxton told reporters after Wednesday’s win over the Spurs via NetsDaily. “Just his vision makes the game easier for everybody, so we are excited to have him back.”
The void the Harden left in the Nets during his injury recovery was vivid on Wednesday. The window for him to win his second MVP award this season has likely closed, but with Harden back with KD, and the team hopeful that Kyrie Irving can return on Saturday, the Nets championship hopes are looking brighter than ever.