James Harden Unconcerned with Slump; Says He's 'One of the Most Confident Players'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2022

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes part in warm up before playing the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on April 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

James Harden brushed off what has been a somewhat unconvincing start with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 2017-18 MVP finished with 22 points and 14 assists as Philadelphia beat the Indiana Pacers 133-120 on Saturday. He told reporters after the game he's "one of the most confident players" in the NBA on offense.

"I know that I'm not making shots," he said. "But I'm one of the most confident players we have in this league because I put the work in. It is what it is. It's a part of the game. … [I'll] continue to work my [butt] off. Ain't no other choice. Ain't no time to feel sorry for nobody, feel sorry for myself."

Harden went 7-of-16 from the field but missed seven of his nine three-point attempts.

From a Philly perspective, there was some hope that a change of scenery might help the 32-year-old rediscover his typical efficiency. In 44 games with the Brooklyn Nets, he shot 41.4 percent overall and 33.2 percent from three, both of which were below his career averages prior to 2021-22 (44.4 FG%; 36.3 3P%).

However, the trend has continued with the Sixers. Harden's field-goal percentage (40.2) and three-point percentage (32.6) since joining Philadelphia would both represent career lows.

Beyond the pure numbers, there's a growing sense the 10-time All-Star simply may not be the same player he was even toward the end of his run with the Houston Rockets.

Raheem Palmer @iamrahstradamus

Harden can not beat bigs on the switch anymore. He has no burst, quickness or ability to finish at the rim anymore. At this point he’s feast or famine depending on if his step back 3 is falling. Dude is <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LarryHolmesStatus?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LarryHolmesStatus</a>. I really don’t even think the 76ers can resign him

Mike O'Connor @MOConnor_NBA

If you didn’t know who he was and you’d only watched Harden this year you would never believe me if I told you he averaged 34.3 points per game two seasons ago.

Given Harden's spotty track record in the playoffs, there's no guarantee that playing on the big stage of the postseason suddenly makes everything click.

It's obviously way too early to make any firm judgments about the Sixers' decision to acquire Harden and give up Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks in the process. And things could be going much worse than they are now.

But to this point, Philadelphia hasn't gotten much clarity as to whether Harden can meaningfully help the franchise chase a title, or whether handing him a massive long-term extension is a safe enough bet.