Putting up big numbers is like riding a bike for James Harden, apparently.
The Brooklyn Nets star returned to action on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs after missing 18 games with a hamstring injury, dropping 18 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds in just 26 minutes during a 126-118 victory.
Not much of a surprise for the beard.
“Not really. Not to brag or anything, but I’m really good at this game,” he said. “I study the game, I’m very unselfish. I take the game and I play it the right way every single night. I don’t try to do anything I can’t do or anything that doesn’t benefit our team.”
There wasn’t much from his head coach, Steve Nash, either.
“I don’t want to go so strong as to say surprised, but I was pleasantly surprised,” Nash said. “You expect some rust. While I’m not saying he was firing on all cylinders, he was pretty impressive. Pleasantly surprised. You could see where there’d be more rust, but he was pretty sharp, played well, obviously impacted the game greatly. So, really impressed.”
Granted, there was some hesitation just because of the length he went without playing. Harden had played in just one game since April 1 before his return on Wednesday against San Antonio.
“I didn’t know [what to expect],” Harden said. “Man, this is the longest I’ve been without playing basketball… especially coming off the bench, not playing the first quarter, having to stay warm and do all the things necessary to go out there and be my best.
As luck would have it, the Nets still weren’t able to reunite their “Big 3” when Harden returned as Kyrie Irving sat out with a facial contusion. With just two games remaining, the opportunities to have Harden, Durant, and Irving spend some time on the floor together before the playoffs are dwindling. But Irving’s scans came back clean, meaning it could happen.
But at least they have Harden back in the fold to get ready for what is expected to be a deep run into the postseason.
“I just have to go out there and play with confidence and do what I do and not think about anything,” Harden said. “It took me a little bit, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day and something that I love doing.”