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#pounditFriday, May 7, 2021

James Harden

James Harden ‘very confident’ of return before playoffs

James Harden

The Brooklyn Nets are running out of time if they want to get their big three some time together on the floor before the playoffs start. James Harden is confident that the chance will come.

Harden, who has been out since April 5 with a hamstring injury, said Thursday he is “very confident” that he’ll be back before the start of the playoffs.

“The plan is to hopefully get an opportunity to play a couple games before the postseason,” Harden said, via Malika Andrews of ESPN. “We’re just taking one day at a time.”

Harden added that the presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving actually meant he didn’t need to rush back and carry the team, as had been the case with the Houston Rockets in years past.

“At this point in my career, going to postseasons basically since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been playing heavy minutes, just carrying the load,” Harden said. “And this was an opportunity for me to keep my body right going into the postseason with a clear mind and a clear body. You’ve got 16 games to win. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s the reason why I came to Brooklyn.”

Harden, Durant, and Irving have played just seven games together since Harden was acquired from Houston. While Harden isn’t concerned, there’s another team demonstrating that it’s not easy to adapt and adjust this late in the season after multiple extended absences. The Nets had better hope that their stars don’t run into similar issues.

Rockets owner thinks team made ‘great’ trade for James Harden

James Harden

Many believe the Houston Rockets got 30 cents on the dollar for ex-MVP James Harden. Owner Tilman Fertitta thinks the exact opposite though.

Fertitta appeared this week on CNBC. One of the topics he spoke on was the Harden deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Citing all of the draft picks that the Rockets acquired, Fertitta called it “a great trade,” per Nets Daily.

Few will agree with Fertitta’s assessment here. Houston ultimately netted four first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps in the multi-team trade. Many of those picks may end up in the 20s, depending on how long the Nets can compete for. The Rockets also ended up with Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, and Dante Exum. But neither Oladipo nor Kurucs are even with the team anymore. Oladipo in particular went to Miami in what many saw as a finesse job by the Heat.

Of course Fertitta will speak positively about the move that his team made. But especially considering that his own pettiness may have prevented the Rockets from getting a better return, the comments will attract skepticism.

Steve Nash has ominous comment about James Harden’s status

James Harden

James Harden has experienced a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury, and Steve Nash doesn’t exactly sound optimistic about him.

The Brooklyn Nets shared the announcement regarding Harden’s status. They say the guard suffered a setback during his rehab and will now be out indefinitely.

Nash on Tuesday did not have the best quote about Harden’s status.

“We’re back to square one… he will be back when he’s back. It might be the playoffs. It might be sooner,” Nash said.

Being back to square one is not a great sign. That means they have to start the entire rehab process over again from the beginning.

The NBA playoffs are scheduled to begin on May 22. That would give Harden about a month to recover before the postseason begins.

So far, the Nets have only played seven games with their three stars on the court at the same time. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden have all missed time for various reasons. Now it’s Harden looking at more of an extended absence. Brooklyn is second in the East at 38-19 entering play on Tuesday.

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.