When James Harden first joined the star-studded Brooklyn Nets last season, the biggest question was whether he was willing to change the way he played.
Now, it's whether he'll be able to.
Harden finished Wednesday's 106-93 loss to the Miami Heat with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting, attempting just three free throws (precisely in line with his per-game average this season) in 36 minutes. His struggles were a continuation of one of this season's most intriguing early stories: Harden, long a singular offensive force because of his unique foul-drawing craft, looked positively ordinary as the whistles went silent.
In Brooklyn, it's no longer about whether Harden can ditch the isolation-heavy, free-throw-dependent, ball-dominant game that made him so prolific with the Houston Rockets. It's not about him sacrificing to fit in. It's about whether he knows how to be effective now that his old style isn't viable anymore.
The Heat, who fielded a starting lineup loaded with intelligent, gritty and capable defenders (and also Duncan Robinson), presented a tough matchup for Harden as he sought to get his season on track. When he went searching for the calls he used to get, he came up with nothing.