James Harden’s road back to full speed is still clearly a work in progress — with no sign of how much longer it’s going to take.
The star guard struggled again physically during the Nets’ 106-93 loss to the Heat on Wednesday night.
Harden played well in the second quarter, but was largely lackluster and finished with 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. He shot just 4-for-12 and was a minus-12 for the night.
“I think James is showing signs of getting his rhythm back. Like I keep saying, it’s not an easy process. It’s going to take him some time, have to be patient with him,” head coach Steve Nash said. “He had some incredible stretches to build on.”
Harden was beaten downcourt twice in the first half on Heat breakaways and he had a shot blocked at the rim in the fourth.
His lack of mobility has been telling. After five games, he’s averaging just three free throws, down from 7.3 last season and 8.7 for his career. And his average speed of just 3.63 mph going into Wednesday was the slowest of anybody in the NBA who had logged more than three minutes.
Harden has said the NBA’s rule changes aren’t an issue, but he admitted the three Grade 2 hamstring strains he suffered last season set back his offseason work.
“[I’m] just getting more confident, being aggressive. And it’s getting better every single game. As much as I want to get back to just [score] 30 and 40 points, I can’t do that. As much as I want to, obviously I’d love to,” Harden said. “I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer. Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season.
“So this is my fifth or sixth game of trying to just play with competition and play against somebody else. And as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, take your time. But this will make me stronger at the end of the season.So I just embrace moments like this and things like this. And I just keep pushing through it.”
The hamstring woes limited Harden to just 44 games last season, and he hasn’t played regularly since March. Recovering from injuries is essentially uncharted waters for him.
“My career I’ve been blessed, just not having surgeries or whatnot,” Harden said, knocking on wood. “So just this the whole process last year was just like frustrating and draining. I love to hoop. If it wasn’t for the money, I’d still be hooping. So it was frustrating last year.
“It was draining for me to know that I couldn’t be myself and be out there on the floor and be the player than I am. But I’m finally slowly getting back to it. It just takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But its gonna happen. But you got to just continue to keep fighting for and I will.”
Former Nets scout Bob Ferry — who was twice the NBA Executive of the Year as the Washington Bullets GM — died at 84. He started scouting with the Nets in New Jersey in 2010, and was with them through at least 2017. Ferry is the father of former NBA player and executive Danny Ferry.