Many fans and critics were concerned after James Harden’s uncharacteristic slow start to the season. Over the first five games of the season, Harden averaged just 16.6 points on shooting 36% from the field; however, we started to see sparks from Harden following this first set of games.
Many attributed Harden’s slow start to the NBA’s change in referee guidelines relating to fouls on plays involved in unnatural shooting motions. It was very clear in the beginning of the season, and even a little now, that Harden takes contested shots in the hopes of heading to the free throw line although that will not work this year. When asked about his slow start, Harden told reporters that he is working towards returning to where he was physically before a series of hamstring injuries that he had to endure last season.
Despite the criticism and lackluster performances, Harden showed signs of his MVP-self on Friday night in the Nets’ matchup against the Pelicans. Harden’s 39 points and 12 assists to help Brooklyn beat New Orleans 120-112.
When asked about potentially returning to his MVP form, Harden responded with, “I’m getting there. It wasn’t going to take long. I mean, this is the highest [level] in the sport is the NBA, the most talented players in this world. So it’s not going to be easy for me to just come out there and do what I do. It takes a lot of hard work to be playing at a point to which you guys have seen me play at.. I’ve been playing so well and so extremely at another level to where you guys set standards for me, and I set standards for myself as well. For me, I just continue to work. I feel a lot better, and the work don’t stop.”
In addition to Harden’s impressive 39 points, the other Nets superstar, Kevin Durant, recorded 28 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Following the game, reporters also asked Harden how teams can prepare when the two Nets starts are heating up at the same time. Harden simply stated “”Ummm, pray?” and followed by saying “I’m just playing [around]. I mean, it’s difficult. We’re two unselfish basketball players. We’re versatile. Obviously, Kevin is known for his scoring, efficient scoring, but he’s also a willing passer, especially when there’s double teams and things like that. It’s difficult to guard him, and it’s difficult to guard me, especially when we’ve got it going.”
With Harden starting to perform at his former MVP level and Durant being the current league MVP favorite, Nets fans should be extremely excited for what’s to come for the remainder of the season.