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#pounditMonday, April 12, 2021

James Harden

James Harden out at least 10 days with hamstring strain

James Harden

James Harden is going to miss more time after reaggravating a hamstring injury.

Harden missed two games due to his right hamstring but returned on Monday night against the Knicks. He left after playing just a few minutes in the game and did not return.

Harden underwent an MRI which revealed a right hamstring strain. The Nets say he will be reevaluated in 10 days.

Perhaps Harden tried to return from his first hamstring injury too quickly.

The good news for Brooklyn is that Kevin Durant is set to return on Wednesday, which would mark his first game since Feb. 13.

Harden has become a triple-double machine and is averaging 25.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 10.9 assists per game this season.

Rockets GM defends team’s return in James Harden trade

James Harden

Amid increasing criticism of the Houston Rockets’ return in the James Harden trade, general manager Rafael Stone offered a firm defense of the deal on Monday.

The Rockets’ decision to trade Victor Oladipo, a key piece of the trade, to Miami in exchange for two veterans and a pick swap increased criticism that the team had not done enough to get a quality return for Harden. The Rockets ultimately landed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026, as well as a 2022 first-round pick from Cleveland via Milwaukee. The Rockets also have the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. That said, the team failed to acquire any young players in the deal, preferring instead to focus on draft capital.

Stone stood by the trade on Monday, saying the deal could not be fairly evaluated for another decade or so but adding that he had no doubts that he’d done what was best.

“I would for sure, 100%, do that deal again,” Stone said. “Again, you guys don’t have the advantages of knowing everything I know, but literally no part of me regrets doing that deal. I have not second-guessed it for a moment.”

Stone is right that it’s too soon to judge the trade. That said, the Rockets appear to have made a mess of their handling of Oladipo, and were left with virtually no valuable player assets from the series of trades. They’re going to have to nail the draft picks for this to look worthwhile in retrospect, which is no sure thing.

James Harden makes bold MVP proclamation

James Harden

James Harden is a part of a three-headed monster in Brooklyn. But he still thinks he has done enough individually to earn the NBA’s highest award.

After dropping 44 points in a win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the Nets star was asked if he belongs in the MVP conversation.

“I am the MVP,” he declared, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Harden, who arrived on the Nets in January, is averaging 25.4 points and 11.5 assists per game for his new team this year. That is a much lower scoring output than what he was putting up with the Houston Rockets when he won MVP in 2018. But Harden also has a higher field goal percentage now to go along with the higher assist numbers.

The 31-year-old Harden has held down the fort in Brooklyn while Kevin Durant has dealt with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving has been in and out of the lineup for personal reasons. Harden may also benefit in MVP voting from the time missed by players like Joel Embiid and LeBron James.

Still, Harden’s season is probably not as impressive as the ones that players such as Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are putting together. But regardless of his place in the MVP race, Harden has had a massive impact for the Nets since his arrival in more ways than just one.

James Harden acting as Kyrie Irving whisperer for Nets?

James Harden

Despite some outside doubts about he might fit in with the Brooklyn Nets, James Harden appears to be doing just swimmingly on that front.

Mike Mazzeo of Forbes reported on Wednesday that Harden has been very humble ever since his arrival in Brooklyn, displaying a willingness to put the team first in their pursuit of an NBA title. Mazzeo adds that the former MVP has gotten along very well with Kyrie Irving, describing Harden’s presence as “a calming influence” on the mercurial Irving.

Harden has indeed taken on a more facilitatory role for the Nets alongside Irving and Kevin Durant. He is averaging 11.4 assists per game in Brooklyn (which would be a career-high) and is taking just 16.6 shots per game (his lowest number since the 2013-14 season). Harden has been happy to defer to Irving and Durant when they share the floor together and to carry bench-heavy units when his star teammates sub out of the game.

As for Irving, he is still finding ways to cause problems on his own. But it sounds like Harden is one of the few teammates who has actually been able to get through to the infamously difficult guard.

Celtics reportedly had strong interest in James Harden

James Harden

The Boston Celtics weren’t thought to be heavily involved in the James Harden sweepstakes earlier this season, but it may be that they simply kept their interest rather quiet.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Celtics’ “level of interest and involvement” in Harden trade talks was greater than what GM Danny Ainge was willing to publicly admit. However, the Celtics still balked at the Houston Rockets’ asking price, which likely would have involved giving up All-Star wing Jaylen Brown to start with.

The Celtics were a fairly late entry onto Harden’s trade list, and there was some reported interest on the team’s end. Even though the links weren’t strong at the time, it makes sense that Ainge would have given a strong look at a superstar given his penchant for being aggressive at times.

At 19-17, the Celtics have been one of the season’s biggest disappointments so far. However, due to the desire to keep Brown and Jayson Tatum in the fold, any trade additions will probably be less significant.

Look: James Harden draws attention for his crazy outfit

James Harden

James Harden is known for making bold fashion choices, and that continued to be the case on Sunday night.

Harden showed up at the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta wearing what appeared to be a clear rain coat over his clothes. And to be clear, no, it was not raining.

Some pointed out that he had the look of notorious fictional serial killer, Patrick Bateman.

Here are more jokes that Harden received for his outfit.

Harden had 21 points in the All-Star Game, playing on Team Durant. He scored all of his points on 3-pointers. He could probably average 30 points per game in any outfit.

James Harden trolled for bizarre outfit at All-Star Game

James Harden All Star outfit

James Harden’s unorthodox fashion choices once again had the internet asking questions on Sunday ahead of the NBA All-Star Game.

Harden showed up to the game in a sheer poncho-like overcoat. He was also carrying what looked like a small briefcase, and social media wasted no time commenting on the unique look.

This might be even stranger than the look he broke out for his Nets debut earlier in the year.

Hopefully Harden isn’t planning to do anything on the town after the game, even if he’s dressed for it. Beyond breaching health and safety protocols, that didn’t go so well last time he did that.

James Harden responds to Antoine Walker criticism over style of play

James Harden

James Harden did not think much of recent criticism of his style of play from longtime Boston Celtics forward Antoine Walker.

Walker recently praised the Celtics for not getting involved in Harden trade talks, telling the “All Things Covered” podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden that Harden’s style of play did not translate to wins in the NBA.

“I don’t think you can win with his style,” Walker said, via Jasmyn Wimbish of CBS Sports. “Any time it takes a guy six, seven, eight dribbles to get to where he has to go, that’s a problem. It works today because it’s more of a pick-and-roll league, so he gets away with a lot of things now, but I would not leverage my future for James Harden.”

On Sunday, Harden was asked about Walker’s comments, and dismissed them with one sentence.

Walker has credibility in Boston, where he’s a widely-respected figure. That won’t matter much to Harden, who has been outstanding for the Nets since being traded from Houston. All he really needs to do at this point is let his play do the talking.

James Harden shares thoughts on reception he might get in Houston

James Harden

James Harden is returning to Houston on Wednesday night for the first time since he forced the Rockets to trade him, and it will be interesting to see how the Brooklyn Nets star is received at the Toyota Center. It sounds like Harden is hoping for a warm welcome.

In an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews on Tuesday, Harden spoke about his return to Houston and said he hopes to be “received with love.”

“The love and the appreciation that I’ve given to that city and that I still give to that city, I’m hoping that the favor can be returned,” Harden said.

The Rockets tried to repair their relationship with Harden before trading him, but the former MVP was not interested in making it work. He told Andrews that he never thought he would leave Houston but realized he had “different goals.”

“The communication between myself and the front office got a little shaky,” Harden said. “And now I look back at it and I see these other scenarios, other situations that are happening, specifically around other players that are in Houston, in different sports. And their transition is going very smooth. And I would’ve hoped for mine to go that smooth, but it didn’t. I am where I am now.”

Harden has donated money and resources to the Houston area in the wake of the winter storms that devastated the region recently. He said he still feels like he is part of the community and wants to help in any way he can.

We’d expect Harden to get a mixed reaction on Wednesday night, though the Rockets are doing their part to keep things classy. While Harden was a great player in Houston for eight seasons, he wasn’t exactly graceful on his way out the door. Some fans aren’t going to forget that.

Twitter divided over Rockets’ decision to retire James Harden’s jersey

James Harden

James Harden will be getting his No. 13 jersey lifted to the rafters in Houston, and it is leading to a mixed bag of reactions from the Internet.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said on Tuesday that the team plans to eventually retire Harden’s number.

“James Harden will always be a Rocket,” he said, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Of course, we will retire his jersey. He made my first three years of owning this franchise unforgettable. The success he brought this franchise over eight years and the memories he created for our fanbase/community [are] truly remarkable.”

Many on Twitter thought that the honor was well-deserved for Harden.

Others, however, questioned the team’s decision, citing Harden’s lack of playoff success.

The Rockets have retired a total of six jersey numbers in the 54-year history of their franchise: Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rudy Tomjanovich, Clyde Drexler, and Yao Ming. Three of those players (Murphy, Malone, and Yao) never won a ring with the team.

For Harden’s part, he accomplished a lot in his eight seasons with Houston. He made the All-Star team in every single season, earned seven All-NBA selections, led the league in scoring three times, led the league in assists one time, and won NBA MVP in 2017-2018. Harden also led the Rockets to four division titles and two conference finals berths, including a narrow seven-game loss to one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors.

Regardless of how Harden’s time in Houston ended, those accolades are more than worthy of a jersey retirement. Still, one of those aforementioned Rockets legends sitting in the rafters may not exactly agree.