James Harden returned to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night after a 14-game absence.
Unfortunately, despite putting up more than 20 points in his comeback (4-of-19 for 21 points, to be exact), Harden’s Sixers fell to the Houston Rockets in double overtime 132-123.
After the fact, Harden spoke to the media.
In the process, he referenced a ‘weird’ decision by head coach Doc Rivers to manage his minutes in a way that didn’t quite make sense to him.
“The whole minute restriction thing was kinda weird to me,” Harden said, per ClutchPoints.
“Play the first five minutes, then I come out. Then, the second quarter was kind of the same thing. Then the third quarter I come out [after] the first five minutes and don’t come back in the whole third quarter, and then I played the whole fourth quarter.
“I just didn’t know. I was all over the place. I’m not used to it. Not making any excuses. I gotta be better.”
Harden then doubled down on that sentiment when asked what he needed to improve going forward.
“Too many turnovers, easy shots that I missed…definitely a game we should have won,” he said.
It feels like Harden and Rivers often find themselves on different pages. It’s not too drastic, but noticeable. Sometimes Harden is the one frustrated with his coach. Other times Rivers is the one frustrated with him.
The former league MVP really made a concerted effort to get back into the sort of shape and mindset he was in during the peak years of his career.
What a fight. A new college basketball star was born last night. https://t.co/jxTd6z8Qbt
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 6, 2022
Thus far, in large part due to him getting hurt, he has yet to reap the benefits of that dedication to his craft.
Will he and the 76ers be able to turn things around going forward?
Time will tell.