In the Nets' Game 2 blowout win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, Harden didn't take a single shot in the first quarter. Rather than racking up points or flaunting his scoring ability, he's served as Brooklyn's floor general, willing to make the extra pass, find an open teammate, and distribute the ball with a plan in mind.
Harden's leadership has defied the egocentric, diva reputation he once held with the Houston Rockets. And Nets television play-by-play voice Ian Eagle believes that Harden's presence and command have helped solidify the team as a championship favorite.
"I didn't know how it would go when they acquired him, no idea what the dynamic would be. But it became clear, early, that he was a unifier, that he could change the whole vibe within the locker room," Eagle told The DA Show on Wednesday. "My sense of what was happening prior to his arrival, it was a quiet locker room. There wasn't a whole lot of back and forth, and guys were trying to determine who fit in where -- not even on the court, behind the scenes. And then he got there, and almost instantly, things loosened up. And there was a feeling of comradery.
"And it just changed everything for this team. I think it took a little bit of the onus off Kevin Durant and off Kyrie Irving. Maybe not having to do the things that were expected of them in the locker room, James Harden picked up the slack. And he's just got a real knack for that, and a way of connecting with people. So, I think we don't see that. We can't see it, certainly now more than ever. You just aren't exposed to what's happening behind the scenes. But my information is that, he's been incredible in that department, and obviously it's translating on the court as well..."
Although Harden has scored a combined 41 points in Brooklyn's first two playoff games, he finished the regular season averaging just 16.6 field goal attempts with the team, his lowest mark since 2014. The 31-year-old guard also averaged 10.9 assists per game with Brooklyn -- his highest number since 2016 -- along with a career-high 8.5 total rebounds.
According to FiveThirtyEight's most recent projections, the Nets have a 31-percent chance to reach the NBA Finals (third-best odds) and a 16-percent chance to win the title.
The entire NBA conversation between Eagle and DA can be accessed in the audio and video players above.