At the end of an interview with Rachel Nichols that included discussions of Brooklyn’s cold weather, a lack of regret about his exit from Houston, and the need for “solid” defense, James Harden summed up his team’s championship chances. “Of course. We’re more than confident that it’s going to be difficult for a team to beat us four times in a best-of-seven series.”
The six-minute interview, aired Friday on ESPN, offered some fresh perspectives on the eight-time All-Star’s move from the Rockets to the Nets as well as his first month in Brooklyn.
Harden, who’s known for his confidence, admitted that he felt what he saw was undue pressure while with the Rockets and that led him to seek a trade, specifically to the Nets where he could use all his skills, not just scoring.
“The situation that I was with in Houston —consistently and every single night having to get 40 points to give ourselves a chance to win for a long extent of years— is draining. And so, just be able to have the skill set of guys for whom you can be a playmaker and you can get guys involved and not have to worry about scoring every possession is a little big relieving for me.”
Indeed, it’s possible that for the second time in his career, Harden could lead the NBA in assists. He’s currently averaging 11.0 assists per game (11.3 with the Nets), one and a half more per game than his nearest competitor, Trae Young. He’s also averaging 23.9 points and seven assists and has four triple-doubles, fourth in the NBA.
Harden admitted that his desire to come to Brooklyn was about winning a chip ... after winning a slew of individual awards, including the MVP and Sixth Man of the Year along with three scoring titles and seven slots on the All-NBA team.
“I pretty much reached and accomplished every individual stat and award that I can or that I’d want to. And it’s always been about winning. Obviously, we’ve fallen short and didn’t reach the goal. And that was the ultimate reason for my decision. That’s the reason why I’m here in Brooklyn. I’m still trying to chase that goal, chase that dream.”
Harden also said he didn’t like the perception of him as he pushed for a trade from Houston.
“I didn’t like it all,” he told Nichols. “because that’s not who I am. The drama, the extra ... whatever you want to call it ... the negativity for me I don’t like negative energy. It’s draining. So I don’t like necessarily what happened. It could have happened a lot smoother, a lot easier, but it is what it is.”
But when asked if he would have done anything differently, Harden said, “No,” adding that the Rockets front office knew of his desires early on. Still, he noted, “I did what I had to do to get where I wanted to go.” and that was Brooklyn.
“Credit to Houston. They didn’t have to trade me to Brooklyn. They could have traded me anywhere,” he added, calling the Rockets front office, “stand-up guys.”
Once in Brooklyn, Harden joked that “I had to change my entire wardrobe” to deal with cold weather.
“It’s freezing!” he exclaimed. “Now just being on the East Coast and playing a lot more East Coast teams, it’s freezing. A lot more big coats! Gotta bundle up more.”
Harden also admitted that the Nets defense needs work.
“In order for us to get where we want to go, we don’t have to be amazing, we just have to solid. Right now, we’re not solid enough.”
One reason, he said, is that the NBA’s condensed schedule in an abbreviated, 72-game season, leaves little time to practice, particularly after a roster-alterating trade like the four-team deal that brought Harden to Brooklyn but sent out four players, three of whom were often starters..
“The schedule is so crazy that we’re playing four times a week and no time to practice,” he told Nichols. “It has to be throughout the course of the games that we’re learning, you know, and I think we’re going to use this season for that.”
Harden also commented on the controversy around the NBA decision to let Kevin Durant play, then pull him, then put him in a weeklong quarantine.
“It’s frustrating,” Harden said, being diplomatic. “We tested twice a day most of the time. So I feel like me personally if we’re getting tested every single day which we do and we’re consistently coming up negative, like Kevin was negative, then we should be good.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I don’t make the rules, just me personally that’s what I think.”