The NBA season is still young, but one of the arguable favorites to win a championship isn’t doing too hot.
The Brooklyn Nets are towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference and have a under .500 record. The Nets are 2-3 this season, as they lost to the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Now, while a 2-3 record isn’t too alarming, it’s interesting to see the Nets in this position. They are the 11th spot in the East, while the Chicago Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets are the top two teams of the East.
Of course, the Nets are without one of their top players in Kyrie Irving, but they still have James Harden and Kevin Durant. And one of those two players isn’t playing like himself. Durant is averaging 29.8 points, 10 rebounds and is shooting nearly 55 percent.
So, it’s safe to say he’s doing his part. Harden? That’s a slightly different story. Harden’s currently averaging 16.6 points, which is his lowest since the 2011-12 season (where he averaged 16.8).
And as of now, he hasn’t had a game where he’s scored more than 20. For a player known for his scoring ability, this is a little odd. So, what’s going on with Harden?
A Foul is a Foul
One of the things affecting Harden is his inability to get to the line. Harden has a knack for drawing fouls, and since 2018, he’s averaged double-digit free throw attempts per season. This year, he’s only averaging three attempts per game.
Harden’s decrease in free throw attempts can be (partially) attributed to a new rule the league introduced over the summer. With this rule, referees are not supposed to call fouls drawn by unnatural motions. This means an offensive player leaning into a defender in hopes of getting contact, and the foul most likely won’t get the call.
Players like Harden and Trae Young are good at getting those calls, but with the new rule, their chances decrease. And Harden does not seem too pleased. Harden spoke after a recent loss to the Hornets about fouls and said that a foul is a foul.
“I’m not the type to complain about it. I asked every official if they see a foul just call a foul,” Harden said. “Sometimes I feel like coming into a game it’s already predetermined. I already have that stigma of getting foul calls – A foul is a foul no matter what league it is.”
The new rule is impacting Harden, but it isn’t the only thing.
Don’t Stress it, Don’t Rush it
After the Nets lost to the Heat, Harden mentioned injuries impacted how he prepared for the season. His hamstring injury from last season has “slowed him down,” and for now, it is a process of getting back to normal self.
“I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer,” Harden said. “Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season. So this is my fifth game of trying to just play with competition against somebody else. And as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, [have to] take your time.”
Harden also sent out a tweet late Thursday that read, “don’t stress, don’t rush it.” So, it appears that he’s taking it easy.
If the Nets want to win, it will take a healthy, top form Harden. If past injuries and the league’s new rule are truly affecting him, he’ll have to do some adapting. If he can contribute while getting back to optimal health and change his approach to getting fouls, he should be back to the Harden we know. But it may take time.