NBA, Brooklyn Nets Should Be ‘Alarmed’ by James Harden Struggles: Analyst

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Getty James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

An optimist would look at Friday’s game for the Brooklyn Nets and note that James Harden had a triple-double in a team win. Indeed, that is true—Harden had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Nets did grind out a 96-90 win over Detroit. Most NBA players would celebrate a triple-double.

But a realist would see things much different. For starters, Harden nearly had a quadruple-double, logging nine turnovers on the game. There was also Harden’s shooting, which was a measly 3-for-10 from the field. He was 3-for-5 from the 3-point line, which is great, but he was also 0-for-5 on 2-point tries.

The win, too, will go in the left-hand column, but if you watched the game you know that the Nets nearly imploded in this game, allowing the Pistons to cut a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to one point before the Nets fended them off.

And, back to Harden, he had this bizarre play, a careless third-quarter turnover off his own dribble that, once it crossed halfcourt, Harden stopped chasing in earnest, allowing Saddiq Bey to scoop up the ball for an uncontested dunk while Harden lollygagged:

All of this prompted Fox Sports talking head Nick Wright to weigh on something that anyone watching that game would have been thinking. “When is the rest of the NBA world going to start being as alarmed by what’s happening with James Harden as I am?” Wright tweeted.


Hamstring? Foul Rule Changes? What’s Causing Harden’s Struggle?

Now, nine games is not usually a cause for alarm, and there have been a long litany of excuses offered for Harden’s poor performance to this point of the season. He dealt with a hamstring injury, for one thing, going back to last year’s playoffs and said he spent the whole of the offseason rehabbing the hamstring rather than honing his game.

There have also been the fouls. Harden was the chief target of an NBA rule change that took away foul calls for offensive players who initiate contact, which is one aspect of the game at which Harden has been a master. But not only have the refs not been giving Harden those calls, they’ve doubled down by, seemingly, allowing defenders to manhandle Harden more.

The numbers have been eye-opening. Harden has a career scoring average of 25.1 points. That has crumbled to 17.7 points so far. He is making 3-pointers at a good rate, sinking 41.2% of them. But his 2-point tries are strangely awful: He is making 35.2% of those. For his career, he has made 51.2%.

His free-throw attempts are down to 4.7 per game—he averages 8.7 per game for his career.

The advanced numbers are not pretty, either, and if there is reason to be alarmed, it is here. Harden, during his career, has taken 26.9% of his shots in the restricted area, according to Basketball-Reference.com. This year, that number is down to 16.6%, meaning his aggressiveness in attacking the rim has taken a huge blow.

Harden’s midrange game, too, has fallen back. Normally a 42.3% shooter from 10-16 feet, this year, Harden is down to 25.0% from that distance.


Harden: ‘My Shot Feels Good’

Earlier in the week, Harden addressed his shaky shooting, but quickly turned the focus to the Nets’ lengthy, six-game road trip. The Pistons win was the first game of the trip, which continues on to Toronto on Sunday afternoon.


James Harden | Postgame Sound | 11/3/21Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden speaks to the media after defeating the Atlanta Hawks on November 3, 2021.2021-11-04T04:08:55Z

“My shot feels good and I’m just taking it game-by-game,” he said. “I’m excited for this road trip, it’s going to be our first test—long road trip, six-game, it’s going to be our first test to see how many wins can come out of this trip with.”

Harden did have more to say about the changes in the way the game is refereed and how that has affected him so far:

I don’t really think about it. I just try to play basketball. It’s everybody else that makes big deals out of everything, talking—I don’t really focus on how the game is officiated. Each game is different. For me, I feel like just constant communication with the officials and seeing what their view is and telling them what my view is and telling them what I see, constant communication. You know, I watch other games and games are officiated other ways, but that’s out of my control, out of my hands. I just go out there and hoop.

 

 

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