NBA

James Harden was indisputably the leader of the Nets last season, says ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen

Jun 1, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard James Harden (13) reacts after a basket against the Boston Celtics during the second quarter of game five of the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Though the Nets are a collection of superstars, James Harden was the leader in last year’s locker room. While he was the new arrival on a team that included Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Harden was “the alpha.” While preparing a story for ESPN, Jackie MacMullen interviewed the Nets coaching staff about the dynamic in the locker room. 

“What I learned from sitting with those guys was – and if you were wondering who the alpha was, or who the leader of that team was- it was indisputably James Harden. James Harden was the guy. He was the adult in the room. The coaches had great respect for him.”

Jackie MacMullen

After the Bucks eliminated the Nets in a Game 7 classic, ESPN chose not to release MacMullen’s article. Despite the Nets boasting a locker room full of egos, James Harden was the one who kept the team locked in. 

When watching the Nets last season, this dynamic was apparent on the court as well. Upon joining the Nets, Harden became the team’s point guard, handling a majority of the playmaking duties for the Nets. Harden excelled in the role, averaging 24.6 points, 10.9 assists, and 8.5 rebounds

Before injuries shortened Harden’s campaign, he was one of the front runners in the MVP race. When Harden went down with a hamstring injury during the playoffs, the Nets title aspirations did as well. 

James Harden became the Nets leader despite Houston exit

Though Harden proved to be a phenomenal leader on the Nets, his exit from Houston drew significant criticism from fans and media. Despite having two more years on his contract, Harden forced his way out of Houston by skipping training camp and turning in lackluster efforts once he returned. 

Still, upon joining the Nets, Harden expressed regret for the way he left Houston. While Harden’s Houston exit was messy, MacMullen asserted that he addressed this behavior upon arriving in Brooklyn and was determined to grow from it. This season, the Nets will look to return to title contention, and if they can stay healthy, there’s a good chance they can achieve that goal. 

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