A little over one year ago, the NBA was taken by storm as the Houston Rockets had agreed to trade James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. In return, the Rockets received a 2022 first round pick, Dante Exum (from Cleveland), Victor Oladipo (from Indiana), Rodions Kurucs, and more pick swaps. At this time, Brooklyn became an instant title favorite. Now with two of the best scorers in history, a premier point guard in Kyrie Irving, nothing could stop this team, right?
Well, a lot of things did. To begin with, Kyrie Irving had chosen to remain unvaccinated, leaving him out of all games until this past month. Kevin Durant sprained his MCL, leaving him out for a month and a half. As a result, this Big Three have only played 16 games together, and Harden became unhappy. He doesn’t enjoy playing with this team that can’t have a consistent lineup, and also doesn’t enjoy living in Brooklyn. Harden started off this season strong with KD, as the Nets topped the East week in and out. Once Durant got injured, it all went downhill.
The reports started coming out stating that Harden informed the Nets that he will likely be looking at other destinations come summer time, and his play (along with the Nets as a whole), regressed. A lot. So much that as it stands, they are just one and a half games out of a play in spot. Yup. That same Big Three who were half a foot away from advancing to the conference finals without Kyrie Irving.
Since the new year has begun, James Harden just hasn’t looked the same. His effort shown has been downright embarrassing, looking lethargic on defense constantly. Watching these clips easily can remind the NBA world of how he was when wanting out of Houston. He doesn’t want to play hard, puts up random three pointers before the offense gets set, and he is making his weight look like a real issue. In the Nets’ loss to the Sacramento Kings (who were previously on a 7 game losing streak), Harden put up 4 points of 2-11 shooting, paired with a couple of crucial turnovers down the stretch. He clearly doesn’t want to be a Net anymore, but he hasn’t proved to anyone why his value is near what it was before the new year.
So, that brings me to ask the question if James Harden, one of the league’s best scorers in history, is out of his prime? I believe so. We can put him on a 76er team with Joel Embiid, and Seth Curry, but he’s not going to be as effective as he was last season, and the season before. Without his step-back 3 falling, he doesn’t have much left in his arsenal. Sure, he can pass, but he won’t be able to score, which is what he is known for. Take Luka, for example. His three ball has been pretty bad this year, but he can create a mid range shot, or drive to the hoop to score. He can be effective in ways that Harden hasn’t shown us in a long, long time. That being said, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. A Brooklyn team with Kyrie, Ben Simmons, and KD would surely be fun to watch as Simmons fills a huge gap defensively. Harden paired up with Embiid could also lift Philly up to be a title contender, based on how James plays. Who knows? Maybe it’s just a cold stretch that has been longer than expected, or Harden may not be what he used to. Time will tell.
Top Photo: ESPN