For some, the number 13 is considered unlucky. For the Brooklyn Nets during the 2020-21 NBA regular season, it has brought nothing but good fortune. The reason for that is because wearing the number 13 jersey since joining the franchise, James Harden has become the missing link that could take this team all the way to the NBA Finals.
Unhappy with a perceived lack of ambition at the Houston Rockets, not to mention vocally critical of the way the franchise was being run, Harden demanded to be traded in November of 2020. While there was no shortage of potential destinations, the bearded wonder found what he was looking for in January 2021, switching to the Brooklyn Nets.
Since the arrival of Harden, it appears he could be the missing link for a franchise that matches his ambitions. He is delivering the kind of important and influential basketball player evolution metrics the Nets were hoping for, leading the team as a key contributor towards achieving their ultimate ambitions. 31-year-old Harden gives Brooklyn the extra dimension they need to succeed.
Powerful Roster Options
Led by head coach Steve Nash and already boasting a strong roster of players, Harden forms a key part of an ideal starting five that includes Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, that hasn’t always been possible due to injuries, with Irving returning to action in April, following 23 games out of action with a hamstring problem.
MEDICAL UPDATE: James Harden underwent an MRI earlier today which revealed a right hamstring strain. Harden will continue to rehab the hamstring and will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days. pic.twitter.com/Up1TXYaahQ
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 6, 2021
Nevertheless, given that Harden has also suffered a hamstring strain, he faces a few games out of action in April. Thankfully for the Nets, they have a roster packed with plenty of depth. Bruce Brown, Joe Harris, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Landry Shamet can all cover Harden’s absence, even with Tyler Johnson having knee issues at the same time.
Atlantic Division Leaders
Although there have been many forced rotations in the starting five, coach Nash has juggled all his available options well. Heading into the midway point of the April schedule of the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets are among the leading NBA picks to win the Eastern Conference along with the Philadelphia 76ers as both sides have asserted some early dominance.
This follows an exceptional run of results and form after a mixed start to the campaign, boosted by the arrival of Harden. Despite a three-game dip of consecutive losses in February, the Nets haven’t lost more than one game at a time since then. The team only lost twice in March, and that solid winning form has continued into April.
Harden the Statistical Star
Whether looking at offensive or defensive NBA player statistics, the contribution of ‘The Beard’ has been crucial for the Nets. Harden leads the team in both defensive rebounds (7.2) and rebounds (10.9), along with steals (1.2) and turnovers (4.1). That is undoubtedly an exceptional physical presence to have on the basketball court, during his 42 games played.
James Harden is the best player in the NBA pic.twitter.com/8tni7OGppd
— Talkin’ Nets (@TalkinNets) April 5, 2021
Harding is also amongst the NBA season leading players, top of the charts averaging 10.9 assists per game. This is aside from his 25.2 average points per game, underlining his importance as both creator and scorer during plays, which end up with the ball sinking through the hoop. Bringing the team everything they needed, and more, Harden is exactly what the Nets hoped he would be.
Calming Influence of The Beard
When he left the Houston Rockets under a cloud back in January, it would be easy to think of Harden as a self-interested kind of guy, more interested in his own welfare than that of his team. He was often painted as a figure who did nothing but complain, although with the Brooklyn Nets, that reputation has been blown away completely.
although with the Brooklyn Nets, that reputation has been blown away completely.
I told the bros the sky’s the limit if we play it right. pic.twitter.com/T5tDoy9gJv
— James Harden (@JHarden13) April 8, 2021
In March, an article highlighted the effects of Harden on his team, providing a calming influence for the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who have both thrived and quickly bonded with their new colleague. Such leadership qualities cannot be understated, for a team that now views itself as potential NBA champions this year.
Can Harden Lead the Nets to Glory?
As the old saying would suggest, one player doesn’t make a team. That said, the effect and influence of Harden since joining the Nets has been phenomenal. He is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, which could land Brooklyn their first Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference titles for several years, plus a real shot at the big prize itself – the NBA Championship.