It’s time to have an honest conversation. James Harden is careless with the basketball and is a shell of himself, and it seems no one is holding him accountable for his actions.
Harden scored just four points as the Nets lost their sixth straight game, 112-101, this time to a Sacramento Kings team much closer to the bottom of the standings than the play-in tournament. The Kings snapped a seven-game losing streak at the expense of a Nets team that fancies itself a championship contender.
At this point, that’s a laughable notion. The Nets have work to do, a roster to fix and players whose behinds need to be lit on fire.
Wednesday night was an inexcusable loss to a far inferior opponent, a defeat powered by the Nets’ struggling star.
Forget for a second that Harden was incapable of scoring. He gave the ball away time and time again, fueling the Kings’ opportunities all night long. “The Beard” turned the ball over six times, undoing his 12 assists, and shot just 2-of-11 from the field.
The Kings outscored the Nets by 21 in Harden’s 37 minutes on the floor — and the Kings didn’t even have their best player, De’Aaron Fox, on the floor. Harden is the player who the Nets nearly signed to a supermax contract extension last summer, the player Sean Marks must now decide whether or not to keep in town with Kevin Durant through 2026.
Despite the injuries, and despite this being the second game of a back-to-back, the Nets still have two superstars on their roster. Or maybe there’s only one superstar when Durant is out of the rotation.
Harden certainly did not look like one and has not looked like one all season.
His struggles are rooted in his inability to take care of the basketball. Harden now has 212 turnovers, supplanting Lakers’ star Russell Westbrook as the NBA’s turnover king. Harden is averaging 4.8 giveaways per game.
Irving also had an off night: Just 5-of-15 shooting for 14 points and four turnovers of his own. The Nets were buoyed by a career night from Nic Claxton, who finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. James Johnson also erupted for 18 points off the bench, and Patty Mills added 14 points
The Nets, however, had no answer for the Kings in the second half. Seven Sacramento players scored in double figures, led by 18 apiece from Buddy Hield and Davion Mitchell, and another 19 points from Harrison Barnes.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Nets, who were supposed to secure a feel-good win before taking on two more tough opponents. They will cap their five-game road trip with games against the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz before the team heads home.
And remember: Irving can’t play at home, which makes it the Harden show. That show was a nightmare in Sacramento.