NBA

James Harden feeling 'better than ever' as he chases championship with Nets

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden says he has never felt better heading into the new NBA season after enduring an injury-ravaged 2020-21 season.

Harden missed 23 games in the 2020-21 season due to a hamstring injury, which he aggravated during the Nets' playoffs campaign.

The 32-year-old, who had joined the Nets in January, played through pain as Brooklyn bowed out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference semifinals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Harden's teammate Kyrie Irving also had injury problems derail the Nets in the playoffs, leaving plenty on the shoulders Kevin Durant, the final member of 'the big three'.

"I've had two and a half months to recover, and I feel very, very good," Harden told ESPN. "I get an entire year, training camp included, with the guys."

He added: "I've tried to get my mind and my body right. That's all I've tried to focus on this summer. I've come back even better, bigger, stronger and quicker. I feel better than I probably have ever felt before.

"[I'm] just more confident knowing we have a legit chance to be the last team standing."

Harden, who won the 2018 NBA MVP award, also offered an update on his contract status with title favourites Brooklyn, having not yet extended his deal, which has a player option for $47million at the end of the coming season and expires the following year.

"Over the course of my career, I've never been a free agent before," Harden said.

"I've always been loyal, signing contract extensions and being there, being there, being there. I want to take my time with it.

"It's going to be very difficult to leave here or leave Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. I want this season to focus on winning the championship. Everything else will work itself out."

Harden played 36 times for the Nets during the 2020-21 season, averaging 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.9 assists per game.

His 24.6 points per game for the year, including eight games with the Houston Rockets, represented his lowest average since his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12, when he started just twice.

However, playing alongside Durant and Irving, Harden's usage rate fell to 29.0 per cent, having been as high as 40.5 per cent in 2018-19.

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