Brooklyn Nets All-Star James Harden made statements on and off the court on Friday.
Two days after missing Brooklyn’s blowout loss against the Utah Jazz, Harden returned to action Friday and scored 44 points as the Nets edged the host Detroit Pistons 113-111.
Harden also had 14 rebounds and eight assists before fouling out in the final seconds as Brooklyn held on after leading by 11 points earlier in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Harden was asked if he merits consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player honours.
“I feel like I am the MVP,” he said. “I mean, it’s just that simple. I don’t want to be speaking individually on myself. I am just going to leave it at that.
“Numbers are showing it for itself, and we’re winning. That’s all I can say.”
Harden has averaged 26 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 31 games since joining the Nets. Brooklyn are 24-9 since trading for the All-Star in mid-January.
He was the 2017-18 MVP, when he was the league’s scoring leader with 30.4 points per game while adding 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Houston Rockets.
Harden, 31, was scratched shortly before Wednesday night’s tip-off due to a neck injury. Already playing without injured regulars Kevin Durant (hamstring), Kyrie Irving (personal), and the newly acquired Blake Griffin (rest), the Nets took their worst loss of the season, 118-88, also posting a season-low in scoring.
One night earlier, Harden had been listed as questionable against the Portland Trail Blazers with the ailment but he played anyway, carrying the Nets to a 116-112 road victory. He scored 25 points and matched his career-high of 17 assists.