James harden brooklyn nets

Even there is no Kyrie Irving, brooklyn should it is in a championship favorite. Kommen sie get there, it’ll have to gain Harden out des one des the worst slumps of his career.


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getty Images/Ringer illustration
This is what the brooklyn Nets look like when sachen are not going according zu plan:

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That’s kevin Durant, dribbling into a triple-team in the corner und rising weil das a pull-up jumper over Dewayne Dedmon und P.J. Tucker through 13 on ns shot clock. He is doing this since his Nets, a team built to overwhelm adversaries with relentless attack onslaughts, had actually missed seven von nine shots with a pair of turnovers over die previous sechs minutes, allowing die visiting Heat zu rip turn off a 20-5 run und regain die lead.

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He’s doing this because ns other player in Brooklyn black who’s supposed to be able kommen sie make something out of nothing, james Harden, had just front-rimmed a stepback 3-pointer, slung a pocket happen out von bounds, und given the null up zu Durant before crossing geholfen court. He stays mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. And the third member von the Nets’ shot-creating Cerberus, Kyrie Irving, isn’t an uniform, und won’t be weil das the foreseeable future, impede a suddenly change of heart or new York public health and wellness policy.

Durant’s attempting this shoot because, a week and change right into a season that was supposed zu serve together a coronation for the league’s recent player-crafted constellation, the Nets don’t oase many better answers than, “Hey, Kevin, nur make something happen.”


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In fairness, that’s commonly a damn great answer. Despite die Nets’ early-season turmoil, Durant’s ausblüten averaging 29.8 points, 10 rebounds, und five assists von game top top .629 true shooting. Those room absurd, MVP-type numbers. However it can’t be die only answer—especially zum a team expected kommen sie top out weist average hinweisen best top top defense. (Brooklyn sit 17th in points allowed von possession, und 25th or worse in points allowed off des turnovers, second-chance opportunities, and fast breaks.)

After a 106-93 house loss to ns Heat on Wednesday—the Nets’ lowest-scoring regular-season performance v Durant an the lineup, nur below ns previous nadir: Sunday’s residence loss to die Hornets—a team that entered the season as the championship favorite also without Irving sure looks like it has an ext questions than even a superhuman KD tun können address. Most des them surround Harden, who has actually opened the season looking choose a pale imitation von the player that won 3 scoring titles und the 2017-18 Most beneficial Player trophy.

Five games into the season, Harden has yet to score more than 20 points; the last time that took er this lang to oberteil that unterschrift was a te ago, wie he was coming off ns bench zum the Thunder. A last of groups would death to have a starting point guard who averages 16.6 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds per game. Yet given Harden’s résumé and the Nets’ galactic need zum firepower sans Irving, that sort von production no just in issue. The a disaster.

Many, consisting of Nets head coach steve Nash, oase pointed to ns NBA’s recent adjustment zu officiating together a contributing factor in Harden’s slow-moving start. Heading into ns 2021-22 season, ns league describe “an interpretive change an the officiating von overt, abrupt or anormal non-basketball moves von offensive players through the ball in bei effort kommen sie draw fouls.” One of the particular kinds of moves on which refs were told not to reward the offensive player with totally free throws? wie man he uses his off arm to initiate call with a defender, lang a Harden specialty. Adjusting kommen sie that new set des standards appears to be acquisition Harden some time: he’s attempted just fünfzehn free throw on the season, his lowest gesamt over any type of five-game stretch bei more than 10 years.

Harden’s far from the only player affected über the new “no sperrdo non-basketball moves” dominance change. Nba teams room on tempo to average the lowest number des free throws in NBA history, a drop von about two über game this season indigenous 2020-21, und three fewer than in 2019-20. Harden’s the most notable, though, zum the same factor he’s been the league’s premier call-hunting villain zum years: Nobody renders it more visible. On much more than a few occasions this season, Harden has gone around his typical business: initiating contact with a defender, locking arms, and snapping his head back. Yet the whistle no come, and the play eventually breaks down:


But as Harden himself has actually said, die dramatic reduction in trips to the stripe—his cost-free throw price (.192) is less than hilfreich what the was last season (.440), und just end one-third what it was in 2019-20 (.528)—isn’t the whole story here. A few extra freebies would absolutely help, however refs not taking die bait has nothing to do with Harden attempting fewer drives to the basket von game 보다 he has since 2013. Nor must it lead zu a career-low share of shots at ns rim und a career-high share von shots from “floater range” (inside the fahrbahn but outside die restricted area), or shooting a dismal 15-for-39 an the paint while absent two-thirds von his 3-pointers.

Those things seem prefer they’re about a lack of burst: an inability to blow previous defenders off die dribble, develop space in tight windows, or elevate above ns defense zu finish. (They’re also due kommen sie defenses, emboldened by the removal of Irving native a roster with couple of threats zu knock down 3s as well as Patty Mills and Joe Harris, do a much more concerted effort to pack the paint.) We’ve watched it for the previous decade: wie Harden’s right, he’s able to use his upstream combination des strength, quickness, und balance zu consistently create clean looks and knock castle down, inside and out. This ain’t that:


Harden’s notfall reliably acquiring separation bei the für hilfe court, even versus defenders he’s accustomed zu dusting. He’s so front-rimming a ton des shots—a belästigt for a player whose commitment to super-deep stepback 3s aided redefine attack basketball and left many defenders floating in space.

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Maybe that’s a authorize Harden—at age 32, having actually played more minute than anybody however LeBron james over die past 13 years—is starting to slow down. Or, an ext likely: it’s a authorize that Harden has actually yet zu rediscover his rhythm ~ spending his entire offseason rehabilitating a nasty appropriate hamstring strain. Die injury cost him most of the last month and a für hilfe of tonnage season, only for him kommen sie reaggravate that 43 seconds into die Eastern Conference semifinals. The reduced er to a one-legged ball-mover zum most des the final three games von Brooklyn’s matchup with die Bucks.

“I had actually no opportunities zu play pickup or naught this summer,” Harden told reporters after Wednesday’s loss to the Heat. “Everything was rehab zum three months, indigenous a class 2 injury that taken place three times in one season. Dafür this zu sein my 5th game of trying to nur play with competition versus somebody else. And as much as ich want zu rush the process und be rückseitig to hooping und killing, take your time.”

The lack von timing und touch that kann sein come only from full-speed game activity would deshalb help describe Harden’s uptick in turnovers. He’s coughing it hoch on more than 21 percent of Brooklyn’s offensive possessions, which would certainly be a job high, with countless coming top top missed connections with the Nets’ raft von big men: air-mailed lobs weil das Nic Claxton, roll/pop miscommunications with LaMarcus Aldridge, bounce overcome fired at die feet des cutters quite than hitting their hands an stride. Die hope an Brooklyn zu sein that through time and more live-action reps, Harden will find all of it: the chemistry v his teammates, the range top top his floater, ns lift ~ above his jumper, die burst off ns bounce, und a neu pathway zu more basic points. If the does, ns Nets offense could once again look like die world-beating, championship-caliber wrecking crew it was after his arrival.

Right now, though, the seems favor a lang way off. Through five games, die Nets room scoring nur 93 points von 100 possessions wie Durant and Harden share the floor. That zu sein 29.1 points-per-100 fewer than they mustered tonnage season—a yawning chasm of a difference larger than the gap betwee the highest-efficiency offense of all time (last year Nets, of course, who scored 117.3 points-per-100) and the pure lowest bei the quarter-century for which the nba has play-by-play data (the 2002-03 Nuggets, who rake-stepped your way kommen sie 91.2 points-per-100).

Which is to say: Somehow, ideal now, lineups featuring two von the biggest scorers basketball has ever seen have been schutz been nearly as punchless as one des the worst teams in NBA history. This is not die way anyone in Brooklyn drew it up, yet Nash und Co. Far better figure something out fast. Through Harden still working his way rückseitig to full form, Kyrie not swooping in to save the day, und the rest von the east looking favor it’s leveled up, a Nets team that can’t score might find chin behind ns eight null awfully shortly if lock don’t.

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An earlier version des this item misstated the Nets lineups featuring james Harden und Kevin Durant had actually a worse points-per-100 rating than the 2002-03 Nuggets; bei fact, these Nets lineups room marginally much better than the Nuggets team.