The James Harden Show returns to New York on Monday night.
But the New York Knicks are more concerned with ensuring they are more than the Jalen Brunson Show.
Harden will make his 2023-24 debut Monday, when he and the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Knicks in the first clash of the season between the teams.
The Clippers have been off since Wednesday, when they fell to the host Los Angeles Lakers 130-125 in overtime. The Knicks dropped their opener in the NBA’s in-season tournament Friday 110-105 against the host Milwaukee Bucks.
Harden, who was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a three-way deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, watched from the sidelines Wednesday as the Clippers’ 11-game winning streak against their L.A. rival ended.
The Clippers, who will add Harden to a starting lineup that includes stars Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook, are the latest franchise hoping Harden will be the missing piece for a championship-caliber super team.
But Harden played a total of just 159 games for the Brooklyn Nets and 76ers since January 2021. He said Thursday that he felt limited for Philadelphia last season, when he averaged 21.0 points per game — his fewest since his third year in the league — but led the NBA with 10.7 assists per game while collecting five triple-doubles.
Harden has averaged 27.3 points and 8.1 assists in 29 career games against the Knicks, whom he victimized for 61 points while playing for the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 23, 2019. He also had 53 points for the Rockets against New York on Dec. 31, 2016.
Brunson flirted with a 50-point effort Friday, when he was 17 of 30 from the field while finishing with 45 points, three shy of his career-high. The 40-point game was the fifth for Brunson since he joined the Knicks prior to last season, tied for the second-most by a guard in franchise history.
But the rest of the Knicks combined for just 60 points while shooting 21 of 66 (31.8 percent) from the field Friday, when shooting guard RJ Barrett missed his second straight game with a sore left knee. just seems a little bit off, you just start pressing a little bit.