James Harden won't blame early season struggles on new NBA rule change

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With the absence of Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets need James Harden to step up his game in a big way alongside KD. However—a new NBA rule that was aimed at players who make “abnormal movements” to draw fouls that result in free throws has appeared to affect Harden’s game for the worse.

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During the Nets' 111-95 home-opening loss to the Hornets, Harden struggled all night dropping only 15 points and turned the ball over eight times. Over three games, Harden has been to the free throw line a total of nine times. Just to compare, Harden has averaged 8.7 free-throw attempts in his entire career, so to say the rule change affected his game is an understatement.

Both Harden and head coach Steve Nash have voiced their displeasure over the new rule change.

"I feel like he's unfairly become the poster boy of not calling these fouls," Nash said. "Some of them could definitely be fouls still but they're so alert and aware and he's the poster child of these new decisions. I get it, there's a line, but some of them are still fouls. He's just gotta stick with it. He's gotta keep going to the basket and do what he does because a large portion of them are still fouls."

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Nash adds that on plays where Harden drives to the basket and forces clear contact with the defender, including getting his arm while trying to stop him, he hasn't been getting those calls, which infuriates Nash.

"I think it's on the drive," Nash said. "They're hyper aware of him reaching for guys' arms. But guys aren't set and they're getting caught not in a legal guarding position, bumping him. That's a foul. That has nothing to do with the hands. Those are the ones that I take a little exception to."

Harden chimed in, saying he doesn't want to complain or make excuses about the new rule, even though he does just that with his statement.

"I'm not the type to complain about it," Harden said. "I ask every official if they see a foul just call a foul. Sometimes I feel like coming into a game it's already predetermined or I already have the stigma of getting fouls calls. I just ask for officials to call what they see... I can't stop playing basketball. A foul is a foul no matter what league it is. But it's bigger than that. I gotta just keep playing. I gotta play better, obviously. That's it."

Harden may be right. It’s more so him needing to play better rather than trying to adjust to a new rule that has benefited him for years. Not to mention he has a lingering hamstring issue which forced him to spend much of his offseason rehabbing rather than playing. Harden also had limited minutes during the preseason, so his troubles may subside once he gets back into rhythm.

“I’m just getting my confidence back,” said Harden. “I’m a little hesitant. You guys can see it. Just going through a lot of ups and downs last year and then coming into training camp healthy and making sure my conditioning is where it needed to be. Just making sure my confidence continues to build.

The Nets will play the second half of a back-to-back Monday versus a rebuilding Wizards team, so we will see if Harden can finally figure things out with the new rule in place.

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