During the Nets’ postgame press conference last Friday after a 113-111 Brooklyn win over the Detroit weekend, James Harden was asked whether he belongs in the MVP conversation.
“I feel like I am the MVP. It’s just that simple,” replied Harden, somewhat modestly, but rightfully, following a 44-point, 14-rebound, 8-assists showing, all team highs. His 44 points were the most by a Net this season.
Heading into last night’s (Wednesday) game at the Barclays Center against his former team, the Houston Rockets, Harden had 12 triple-doubles in 32 games since becoming a Net in January. He had already tied Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, who notched 12 in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns, for the single-season franchise record.
Harden recorded 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds at home in a 112-107 Nets victory on Monday night versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. “He’s our leader,” said Brooklyn’s head coach Steve Nash, who said sometimes Harden’s excellence is taken for granted. “He’s meant a lot to us but you tend to a little bit because he’s able to pull these [performances] out of a hat almost every night.”
Harden’s output, game after game, has been invaluable as the Nets have played without Kevin Durant since he injured a hamstring on February 13. Guard Kyrie Irving had also missed 15 games prior to last night. Harden has only missed two as a Net and was averaging 26.4 points,11.4 assists and 8.9 rebounds in 38.7 minutes of play with them when the game tipped-off against Houston, leading the team to a 32-15 record, fighting for the best mark in the East with the 32-14 Philadelphia 76ers.
Also in this season’s MVP quest is Joel Embiid (76ers) Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets, Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers) LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) are all worthy MVP candidates with nearly seven weeks remaining in the regular season. If Harden wins the award, he’d be the first player in NBA history to be named most valuable player switching teams during a season, although he only played eight games with Rockets.
Although Harden feels he is deserving, his main focus is helping the Nets win a title, which he lacks on his resume. The team views the additions of Blake Griffin earlier this month and LaMarcus Aldridge this past weekend, as key reinforcements in reaching that goal. Both became free agents after buyouts from their former teams, the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs respectively.
Griffin says it’s still hard to grasp being in his current situation. “It’s crazy just in the sense that these are guys, I have been playing against for so long, and now we’re all on the same team.”
One that has the look of a champion.