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James Harden’s trainer says Nets guard is a good bet for MVP

Hurt by persistent hamstring woes, James Harden received only fifth place vote for MVP, good for one point and 13th place. He was the first Net to receive a vote in the MVP balloting since Vince Carter in 2005 but it was the first time in six years Harden had finished outside the top 10 in MVP voting. Going back, he’d finished third, second, first, second and ninth before last season.

This year, as Mike Mazzeo reports on, Harden enters the 2021-22 campaign at +2,500 on BetMGM and PointsBet to capture his second MVP award. By comparison, Luka Doncic is a +400 favorite on both platforms) while Kevin Durant is +700 on BetMGM, +750 on PointsBet. (Kyrie Irving is +4,000 on both.)

So what’s Harden up to reduce the odds? A lot, Harden’s Houston-based trainer, Justin Allen, told PlayNY. First of all, Allen said, he couldn’t believe how his friend played at all in the post-season, let along 53 minutes in Game 7.

“I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you. What he did was almost impossible,” said Allen. A Nets staffer put it even more succinctly in talking with NetsDaily after the game: “James couldn’t move.”

Allen says he’s been impressed with Harden’s discipline during their training sessions in Texas. The two have been training in Houston three-to-four times a week since the guard returned from Brooklyn. The duo has been focused on working the 32-year-old veteran’s core, stability, and body weight movements.

Allen has also been putting Harden through different hamstring exercises to prevent any build-up of scar tissue and keep blood flowing in the area.

“It’s just basic fundamentals, ladder, and cone drills,” said Allen, who also trains other NBA players. “And then different variations of two-ball drills. James is a very crafty player, so anything that is complex with footwork is going to be great for him and fits his style of play.”

In fact, Allen told Mazzeo, there were issues with Harden’s conditioning from the beginning of the season. through the playoffs.

“That was difficult for me,” Allen said. “Just with the trade and the COVID-19 protocols, we didn’t get a chance to work like we did all those previous years when he was in Houston. The little things matter with an elite athlete like that.”

Now, though, Allen tells Mazzeo that Harden is a good bet this year and every year.

“I think he should be a three- or four-time MVP for sure. You’ve got some great players out there. And you can’t take anything away from the guys who won it,” said Allen. “But I definitely think James Harden will be in the conversation until it’s time for him to hang up his shoes.”

And he adds, “I’m not going to speak for him, but I know he loves it in Brooklyn for sure. He wanted to get traded there for a reason. We just have to let things play out. But I know he enjoyed his first season there, and I’m excited for him to get back to it.”