Harden Disappearing Act Results in Worst Loss of the Season for Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets have reached rock bottom.
The Nets dropped their sixth straight Wednesday night, a 112-101 loss to a Kings team that is 19 games below .500 and without its best player. The loss drops Brooklyn to 6th place, just 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament.
The biggest storyline Wednesday night was one of the most gutless performances you will ever see from an NBA "superstar" in James Harden. Harden scored just four points on 2-11 shooting and turned the ball over six times.
He walked around the court on defense the entire game, frequently losing his man for wide-open threes or backdoor layups. His obvious lack of interest was astonishing. The guard was a team-worst -21 in 37 minutes.
Watch Harden on these plays. Does this look like a player who is committed to winning a championship?
Kyrie Irving struggled as well, shooting just 5-15. However, his effort level was a stark contrast to Harden's, something any casual fan would have noticed.
This embarrassing Harden performance comes off the heels of reports that he is frustrated with his supporting cast and may be eyeing a move to Philadelphia. It's almost as if Harden hadn't been playing with the best player in the world in Kevin Durant for the majority of the season. A luxury that very few stars will ever get to enjoy.
Harden looked like a shell of himself in the majority of his games alongside Durant. His lack of interest on any given night is apparent, and believe me, his teammates notice it. He leads the league in turnovers, is shooting career lows in every area, and couldn't care less about how his defense hurts his team.
The difference in the effort levels of Durant and Irving to Harden is indisputable. An argument can be made that Irving is fresher after sitting out over half of Brooklyn's games. That's fair, but when Irving is out there he's giving it everything he has. That has never wavered and I doubt it would change if he becomes full-time.
Durant, on the other hand, blows Harden out of the water in terms of effort. When KD is on the floor Brooklyn has a defensive rating of 110, good for 12th best in the league. Without him, that number drops to 113.9 and 27th best. This is despite him covering for Harden offensively down the stretch of numerous games this year.
Because he cares. He is a winning basketball player. He does whatever it takes because it means that much to him.
Harden doesn't, and having a player like that as a go-to guy on your team is not a recipe for success.
The Nets are not healthy, but the time for that excuse is over. This is why you pay Harden the money you do. Because on a night where you need a win over an anemic Kings team, he should be able to take over.
The exact opposite happened tonight.
Head Coach Steve Nash had an opportunity to send a message and bench Harden for the fourth quarter after subbing him out at the end of the third. That didn't happen. Harden returned to start the final frame and Brooklyn got outscored 29-15.
Nash had another opportunity to hold his team accountable for this disastrous performance postgame.
"We looked tired," Nash said. "I thought James looked tired. He didn't have his legs tonight."
That is the identity of the Nets right now. An excuse-making, heartless team led by a player who disrespected the game in as obvious a fashion as you'll ever see Wednesday night.
This isn't the first half of the season any Nets fan could have envisioned. Things aren't getting any easier with Brooklyn set to travel to Utah and Denver to close out a five-game road trip.
Right now, the most exciting thing Nets fans have to look forward to is the February 10th trade deadline. However, no front office move can alter the identity of this team. That change needs to come from within.
I wouldn't hold my breath.