After missing more than a month with a right hamstring strain, Brooklyn Nets star guard James Harden returned to action on Wednesday night, scoring 18 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds across 26 minutes in a 128-116 win over the San Antonito Spurs.© Provided by RADIO.COM Nets star guard James Harden on the court.
In order for the Nets to win a coveted NBA title this summer and reach new heights as a franchise, they'll need a healthy Harden playing alongside his Big-Three teammates, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And if this happens, Harden will most likely earn more respect from fans, according to JR.
"If James Harden wins a ring this year, people will shut up," JR said during Thursday's edition of the JR SportBrief show. "No one chirps at Kevin Durant about not being a champion. You don't hear anything. People chirp at Kevin Durant just about his social media usage. Nobody says anything about Kyrie Irving being an NBA champion. People like to poke and pry at Kyrie because he's an eccentric individual. People like to say that James Harden is just a ball hog, which is far from the truth. If James Harden wins a championship, I think people will relax just a little bit.
"If James Harden becomes a champion, maybe the thought or idea will make people slow down just a little bit. Because I can't remember too many NBA champions who've just run around and won the title all by themselves. They've had great teams, they've had solid teammates. They've had All-Star teammates, and in most cases, they've had Hall-of-Fame teammates, all on the same team. So, the idea of, 'We formed a superteam' -- what does it matter how you got there? What does it matter if you were drafted? What does it matter if you were traded?
"The idea is, you are on a good team, you walked away with a title. End of story. That's a big notch that you can put in your belt, and keep it moving... People like to peg him as just a dude who gets shots. I think it's time for some James Harden love. And I think winning an NBA championship might get the monkey off his damn back. I think it might get people a little calmed down to actually appreciate James Harden. And guess what? Don't be surprised if the Brooklyn Nets and James Harden win a championship. And I think that might change people's perception of James Harden just a little bit."
With two games remaining in the shortened regular season, Brooklyn (46-24) currently owns the second seed in the East, and trails the Philadelphia 76ers by one game for the top seed. According to FiveThirtyEight.com's most recent season projections, the Nets have a 34-percent chance to reach the NBA Finals, and a 16-percent chance to win the title.
Harden, Durant, and Irving have played just seven games together this season, and all three have missed at least 10 games. No NBA champion has ever had all three of its leading scorers (in terms of points per game) miss double-digit regular season games, per ESPN Stats & Info.
JR's complete thoughts on Harden and the Nets can be accessed in the audio player above.