James Harden‘s time in Houston may have ended badly, but his adjustment to Brooklyn has been nearly perfect, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. The Nets have climbed to second place in the East behind a string of dominant performances from Harden, who posted his seventh triple-double since the trade in Tuesday’s win at San Antonio.
Injuries have prevented Brooklyn from fully unveiling its Big Three, but Medina points out that Harden has taken on a larger workload whenever Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving hasn’t been available. He averages 20.4 points per game when all three stars play together. That number rises to 25.5 PPG with Irving but not Durant, and 33.0 with Durant but not Irving. Harden scored 31.0 PPG in the three games that his fellow stars both sat out.
“He literally can do almost everything there is to do out there, and he’s been a great leader for us,” coach Steve Nash said. “He can control the game. He is a very smart defender. I think he’s been outstanding as far as keeping his team on track — leading, talking things out, communicating. His passion for the game and willingness and want to win have been fantastic.”
There’s more from Brooklyn:
- Wednesday will mark Harden’s first return to Houston since the trade, notes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Even though he forced the Rockets to deal him after they ignored his off-season trade request, Harden says the fans showed him “mad love” and he’s looking forward to playing in front of them again. “It’s always home and I feel like I’m still a part of everything and the struggles and everything they go through,” Harden said. “I’m excited to go back there and see the familiar faces, see my family and play a game.”
- Since returning from injury last week, Nicolas Claxton has developed into an effective lob partner for Harden, writes Tom Dowd of NBA.com. The second-year center, who missed 32 games with right knee tendinopathy, had a career-high 17 points Tuesday, many of them coming on assists from Harden. “Slowly but surely I’m figuring out the spots that James wants me to be in. It’s only the fourth game,” Claxton said. “I’ve still got a long way to go and just figuring out where I need to be. I’m just running. I’m just playing hard. When you play hard, the game is gonna reward you, and I feel like that’s what happened tonight.”
- Even though they parted with a ton of future picks to acquire Harden, this year’s draft doesn’t look bad for the Nets, according to a NetsDaily story. In addition to its first-round selection, Brooklyn has second-rounders from the Suns and Hawks and could also receive the Pacers’ second-rounder (45-60 protected).