With Kyrie Irving out, the Nets need James Harden to be superman on a regular basis. And right now the NBA’s rule changes have been his kryptonite.
Harden struggled through a horrid game Sunday in the 111-95 home-opening loss to the Hornets, scoring 15 points, but committing a staggering eight turnovers. And while both Harden and head coach Steve Nash admit he has been the poster boy for the rule changes on drawing fouls with unnatural motions, he said he can’t gripe over them.
“He’s got to stick with it. I feel like he’s unfairly become the poster boy of not calling these fouls,” Nash said. “Some of them are definitely fouls still. But they’re just so alert and aware and he’s the poster child of these new decisions that they’re still — I get it, there’s a line, but some of them are still fouls. So, he’s just got to stick with it, he’s got to keep going to the basket and he’s got to do what he does.”
Harden has averaged 8.7 free-throw attempts in his career, and 7.3 last season with the Nets. But he’s averaging just three so far this season, with one on Sunday.
“Yeah, the new rules they do think a lot of things aren’t fouls. So we’ve just got to play through it and not worry about the refs and get back and compete,” Bruce Brown said of a noticeable change in how the refs deal with Harden.
“Yeah, sure [I’m the poster boy], but I’m not the type to complain about it. I ask every official, if they see a foul, just call a foul. Sometimes I feel like coming into a game, it’s already predetermined or I have a stigma getting foul calls,” Harden said. “But I just ask for the officials to just call what they see.
“I can’t stop playing basketball. I mean, a foul is a foul no matter what league it is. But it’s bigger, I’ve got to play better obviously. That’s it.”
Part of that will just come from time. Hamstring issues forced him to spend much of his offseason rehabbing rather than playing, which hurt his conditioning.
“I’m just getting my confidence back,” said Harden. “I’m a little hesitant. You guys can see it. Just going through a lot of ups and downs last year and then coming into training camp healthy and making sure my conditioning is where it needed to be. Just making sure my confidence continues to build.
“That’s all that matters. We’re [at] game 3. My confidence will rise and will continue to get better as games go on and I feel more confident and get that burst of speed like I’m normally used to. No worries at all.”
The Nets will play the second half of a back-to-back Monday versus the Wizards, so they sat Blake Griffin on Sunday. Griffin and Durant both are expected to play Monday.
Former Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie will return to Barclays Center on Monday with the Wizards. He suffered a torn ACL in the third game of last season and never played again for the Nets, who traded him to Washington in the offseason.
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