James Harden is making something special look routine, which is pretty extraordinary.
With 21 points, 15 assists, and 15 rebounds in Monday’s 117-112 win over the New York Knicks, Harden registered his 10th triple-double in just 26 games as a Net. It was the first time in franchise history that a player had at least 15 points, assists, and rebounds in a single game.
Harden is now two triple-doubles shy of Jason Kidd’s Nets single-season record of 12 triple-doubles. He’s already second in franchise history in career triple-doubles as a Net behind Kidd, who had 61 with the Nets.
With 56 career triple-doubles, Harden is eighth all-time, and the seven players above him are almost all inner-circle Hall of Fame types, Kidd among them, along with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, and all-time leader Oscar Robertson.
While Harden’s playmaking has been eye-opening, this is still a player who led the NBA in assists previously, as he is on course to do again this season. But he’s now averaging 9.1 rebounds as a Net, well above his career average of 5.4 per game, and a full rebound per game more than his previous career high of 8.1 in 2016-17, which was the only previous time he averaged even more than 7.0 per game.
“Whatever it takes,” said Harden. “Like rebounding, I try to go help it, especially when we’re small. I know I have to go rebound the basketball a little bit more. I know I have to put my body on bigs a little bit more because I’m not athletic enough or big enough to be able to jump with them. I’ve got to use my body just being crafty around that rim as far as rebounding. And then playmaking, it’s just getting my teammates shots and getting our bigs easy opportunities at the rim. Offensively, I’m not being as efficient as I want to be, but that’s to come and that’s the least of my worries, the least of my concerns. I’m just excited and happy to continue this journey with these guys. We’re playing some pretty good basketball right now.”
CARIS LEVERT, BACK FOR INDIANA
With the Nets in Indiana to play the Pacers on Wednesday night, they’ll be lining up against Caris LeVert for the first time since LeVert was included in the trade that brought James Harden to Brooklyn. The Nets have played the Pacers once since then, in Brooklyn on Feb. 10, but LeVert was unable to play.
As part of the physical to complete the trade, a small cancerous mass was discovered on his left kidney, and LeVert was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. He underwent surgery and was sidelined for two months. LeVert made his Indiana debut on Saturday night, scoring 13 points with seven rebounds in a win over Phoenix. He followed up with 17 points and three steals on Monday against Denver.
“Just honored and humbled obviously, to call him a friend, call him a brother,” said Kyrie Irving. “Wish nothing but maximum health a success. Love him. My family loves him. So you know, going back and seeing him is always an honor, like I said. And it's even better to go and compete against him, because I know he's going to give us his best. And that's what we want. But obviously, what he's been through, just nothing but prayers from me and my family, obviously, from the Nets and everyone around the world. Just we want to see him get through what he was dealing with. And I'm happy to see him back out there. I went home straight after the game the other night, just to turn on to watch his debut. Because it's just so close. It's just family. So just want to see him do well. But we're looking forward to going to Indiana and playing a good team, too.”
LeVert was in fact originally drafted by the Pacers in 2016 as part of an agreement to send forward Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn to Indiana, with the trade becoming official after the draft. In four-plus seasons with the Nets, LeVert averaged 13.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He elevated his game each year, averaging 18.7 points in his final full season with the Nets in 2019-20, taking a lead role for the team during the NBA restart in Orlando after scoring a career-high 51 points in one of Brooklyn’s final games before the season was suspended last March.
He began this season averaging 18.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds in 12 games for the Nets.
“He’s incredibly well-loved in this organization,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “He’s a world-class human being and terrific basketball player. There’s no doubt we’re rooting for him. So to see him return to play and to see him get his career going again is awesome. We miss him, but we’re all rooting for him and want to see him thrive.”
JEFF GREEN GOES FOR 20
Jeff Green had a fast start against the Knicks on Monday and finished with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, making both of his 3-point attempts, and adding six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
“He was getting it on the short roll, he made a couple of nice floaters, made some 3s tonight, I think, two 3s, he was just smart in his rolls,” said Steve Nash. “James (Harden) found him. James made some beautiful passes to him for layups, dunks, and then the short rolls, a few threes, you add it all up and he had a really efficient shooting night and also was our primary defender on (Julius) Randle.”
This was Green’s third game back after missing four of five games before the All-Star break due to a shoulder injury, and he took a little hit in Monday’s game as well.
“I’m good man,” said Green. “It’s something that I believe may linger, I don’t know. I just needed a little minute to gather myself and to just collect myself to get back on the floor. It’s something I’m just going to have to continue to deal with and make the best out of it. That’s where it’s at now. I’m not gonna give the excuse or complain about it. It is what it is.”
ABOUT THE PACERS
The Pacers are 17-21 after losing seven of their last nine games. Indiana is third in the NBA in steals (8.6) and sixth in points off turnovers (18.9), plus fifth in points in the paint (52.9) and sixth in fast break points (14.9). Despite starting two 6-foot-11 players in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, the Pacers are 29th in rebounds per game (41.7), and 26th in rebound percentage (48.3). Indiana is top 10 in the league in limiting opponent 3-point field goal attempts and makes but ranks 26th in 3-point percentage allowed (38.3). Sabonis, coming off his second straight All-Star Game, averages 20.5 points on 52.6 percent shooting and leads the Pacers with 11.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Malcolm Brogdon leads Indiana with 21.6 points per game and averages 6.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds. Turner leads the NBA with 3.4 blocks per game and averages 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.