Nets’ James Harden is healthy and locked in at last

A finally healthy James Harden means trouble for the rest of the NBA.

A finally healthy James Harden means trouble for the rest of the NBA.
Image: Getty Images

Christmas at home could be the turning point in James Harden’s 2021-22 season. The Brooklyn Nets played at the Crypto.com arena against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day, against the Los Angeles Clippers on December 27, and between those two games, Harden’s High School in Lakewood, California, retired his shirt. A whiff of that Southern California smog and a little love for his hometown were just the energy boost Harden needed for a monstrous Christmas performance. In two consecutive Nets wins, Harden racked up double-digit assists and scored more than 35 points in every game.

Harden had missed four games before Christmas on the Nets’ list of health and safety protocols, and that list got so big for the Nets that they missed a week of action, as three of their matches have been postponed. Harden used that spare time to address any lingering doubts about his conditioning, which he said was improving before he ended up in protocol.

“That rupture, that protocol, or COVID, or rest or whatever you want to call it, could have gone two ways,” Harden told the average after the Nets 124-108 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. “I just got excessively stuck on my body, my eating, and then I was able to start working out, my workouts.”

Judge for yourself. Here is a photo of Harden training after the Clippers win. Does he seem in good shape to you?

Although the Nets have held the best Eastern Conference record for most of this season, they have not been considered overwhelmingly favorites to win the NBA championship. Part of the blame was placed on Harden for appearing out of shape at times, as its stats are the lowest in years. Harden is currently shooting 34.3% from the three-point line, a measly 41.5% from the field, and with 22 points per game, his scoring average is at its lowest since coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder. .

But again, the Nets currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They have won 15 of their last 20 games and were successful on their trip to Los Angeles without MVP candidate Kevin Durant who was in health and safety protocol. Durant will do it Return at training on Thursday when the Nets take on the Philadelphia 76ers. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyrie Irving – who will do it? alone they will play in street games for the foreseeable future – they are also off the mark.

As the Nets’ roster strengthens, their eventual success this season will not depend on whether Harden has the kind of utilization rate and average scores he had with the Houston Rockets, but that he is in the kind of condition. needed to execute the offense and play well enough on the defensive to help explain that the Nets don’t have a traditional circle protector. He’s right in saying he was starting to look more and more like that player before the Nets’ massive COVID epidemic, but his Christmas trip to SoCal has been as good as he has played since he was traded to the Nets early in the game. last season.

We’ve seen what the Nets look like when Harden is at his peak with them. Remember when they won 14 of 15 games last season and against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs when it looked like the Nets super team was going to go to the 2017 Golden State Warriors in the NBA? Regardless of how Kyrie’s situation evolves, a stuck and sane Harden creates problems for the Warriors, the Phoenix Suns, and any other team that feels they have a chance for an NBA championship.

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