Nets' Kevin Durant: James Harden 'Knows Exactly What He Needs to Do' Defensively

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 3, 2021

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) congratulates Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) during the final seconds of the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in New York. The Nets defeated the Clippers 124-120. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Kevin Durant offered up some rare praise of James Harden on Tuesday night after the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 124-120.

Harden is usually lauded for his offensive touch, but Durant turned the focus to Harden's impact on defense.

Nets Videos @SNYNets

"Coming in with James, his rookie year, we asked him to guard guys - the best players off the bench - so he knows exactly what he needs to do on the defensive side of the ball" Kevin Durant talks about the underrated defensive side of James Harden's game https://t.co/7CNqxIquvo

"Coming in with James, his rookie year, we asked him to guard guys—the best players—off the bench," Durant recalled from their days in Oklahoma City. "So he knows exactly what he needs to do on the defensive side of the ball."

In a high-scoring battle between two of the NBA's top title contenders, Harden finished with a plus/minus of plus-eight while having to go up against the likes of Paul George and Reggie Jackson. All the while, Harden's offense hardly suffered.

The guard notched 23 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, giving him his second triple-double in as many games and his fifth overall since joining Brooklyn in mid-January. In nine games with the Nets, Harden has finished with fewer than 11 assists just once.

Which makes his defense all the more notable. As the Nets revive Harden, the totality of his game is becoming more and more apparent.

This isn't the endless-dribbling version of Harden who tried to break ankles or draw a foul on every possession. He's fitting back into a system with multiple stars and doing it seamlessly.

As Durant is reminding others, it's not the first time the Arizona State product has been in this position.

"When he go to Houston he had to control the offense so much that it was compromising on the other end of who you want to guard," Durant said. "... He's always been good at getting steals and playing post defense using his strength. He's an all-around defender."