James Harden’s historic offensive mastery with the Rockets will eventually be controlled by postseason failures


James Harden sat quietly in front of his locker at the Oracle Arena, with only a towel hanging sharply in front of his waist, like a gladiator’s loincloth that emerged only triumphantly against the dangers of the Coliseum. Minutes earlier, Harden homered an improbable-looking 3-pointer over Kell Thompson and Drummond Green, giving the Houston Rockets a win over overtime defending champions Golden State Warriors, and a 44-point, 15-assist, capped at 10. – All works.

Later in the visitor’s locker room, everyone’s eyes were on Harden. And boy did he know this.

As the media waited… and waited… and waited to get a quote from the man, who was the master of the night, heartily casually, scrolling through his phone, sometimes the team Chats briefly with colleagues. He finally got up, and as the scams built around him to gather his thoughts, he broke through her and walked towards the shower.

It was Harden’s moment, and he was milking it for everyone, it was value.

He eventually emerged from the shower as the media deadline passed and there was a rapid disappointment among reporters, and Harden slowly took a piece of paper with fragrances, jewelry and, ultimately, fashion-forward, shiny green rain on his back. Stapled. Circled on social media Hours ago when he entered the arena.

“I’ve got a total package,” Hardik addressed the journalists’ weary scandal when looking at the surname and grandeur of Wrestler Liege Luger. “I go basket offensive and I hit my shot.”

The entire sequence explained everything about Harden’s tenure in Houston, which officially ended when he was Traded for the Brooklyn Nets on a large scale on Wednesday. His jaw dropping offensive attack during the game. Later his disregard of standard protocols. His accent of his own abilities, with a chip on his shoulder for anyone who dares to question his place among the greatest basketball players of all time.

But perhaps the most important part of the entire proceedings, as they relate to Harden’s run with the Rockets, is the fact that his greatest moments and greatest pieces of grandeur came after a regular-season win. Despite his consistently historic offensive performances from year to year, Harden’s time as a rocket would eventually be remembered as a disappointment due to the one trophy that tore him apart.

No matter your feelings about Hardik, either the aesthetics of his aggressive attitude, his off-court reputation, or how he treats teammates, you can see his other offensive abilities and accomplishments. I cannot argue. An MVP who finished second in voting three times and once in third place. A three-time NBA scoring leader. A seven-time All-NBA performer. An All-Star for all eight seasons in Houston.

In 2018–19, Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain (five times) and Michael Jordan (once), the only players in NBA history to score more than 36 points per game in a season. In 2019-20, his 34.3 points per game rank 15th. He ranks second (378 in 2018-19) and fifth (299 in 2019-20) in the list of single-season 3-pointers, ahead of only Stephen Curry. He has led the NBA in free-throw attempts in seven of the last eight seasons.

Harden is the Rockets’ all-time leader by basketball reference, which is far ahead of Hall of Fame Hakeem Olajuwon per game (29.6), 3-pointers, free throws and triple-doubles, and his 26.8 percent and 88.2 wins. . It’s hard to argue about Hardik being the second best player in franchise history behind Olazuvon, and at least efficiency argues him for the top spot.

More than the numbers, however, Harden revolutionized the way crime can be committed. If Steph Curry is a human cheat code, able to warm up and flip in shots that have no business, Harden is the kid who detected glits in the game, surgically and tirelessly exploiting the defense , Knowing that the number will eventually tilt in his favor. His ability to draw and eliminate a foul at the rim was eventually tackled by one of the most unstoppable shots in NBA history – a step-back 3-pointer that was mimicked ad nauseam by players around the world as Hardik called it Was completed.

That shot and Mike D’Auton’s empowerment turned Harden into an isolation machine. He has led the league in each of the past five seasons, but took things to the extreme in 2018–19, when he ran 1,280 separations according to NBA.com. The closest player behind him was Russell Westbrook with 353. With that volume, he still led the league in separation efficiency at 1.11 points per possession.

Harden also held the ball for league-leading 6.37 seconds per touch that season, and the methodical offensive style attracted critics from every corner. But there is no doubt on its effectiveness.

Yet by the end, Harden reached a place in Houston from which no one spoke. His success rests on resting after both individual and team performances, and this is where he has developed a reputation that underpins his regular-season feats. Hardin was unable to lead the Rockets to victory in the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals at Rock 5 when Kevin Durant left the game with an injury, when a win gave the Rockets a 3–2 lead at Houston. He scored five points in the fourth quarter and took just three shots while dragging the Warriors and the Rockets were dismissed from home in the next game.

A year before that, Harden had the chance to send the Rockets to the NBA Finals with Chris Paul against the same Warriors, but he was ice-cold from the field – like the rest of the Rockets – making his 13 3-point attempts. Only two saw their best chance for the title by Houston with Harden slip through his fingers.

Perhaps the biggest red flag on Harden’s playoff resumption came in the 2017 Western Conference semi-final against the San Antonio Spurs. Harden nearly lost the MVP to Westbrook that season, and third-placed finisher Qui Leonard was ruled out for Game 6 with an ankle injury. It was a foretaste that the Rockets would win the home game, forcing Game 7 in San Antonio to raise Leonard’s position in the air.

The NBA is one of the playoff performances in recent memory. Harden, scoring 27.4 points in the first five games of the series, scored just 10 points and took just 11 shots (nine points out of 3) as the Rockets lost by 39 points in a Game 6 elimination. This gave rise to theories of which Harden was ignored or otherwise physically obstructed, and it fed into the belief that despite being overwhelming in the regular season, Harden’s playing style was never Does not lead Rockets to championship.

It wasn’t

Whether it is Harden’s fault is up for debate, but his efficiency has largely diminished in the postseason.

2019-20

Is 1.093

Is 1.099

2018-19

1.073

0.98

2017-18

Is 1.064

Is 0.968

2016-17

Is 1.007

0.96

2015-16

1.015

0.911

2014-15

1.031

Is 1.024

2013-14

Is 1.056

0.915

2012-13

1.027

0.924

As with most great players who have been unable to win championships, Harden’s conditioning, willingness and ability to keep pace with teammates come into question. A frightening report followed Harden’s demand for the business, detailing the “whatever James wants” policy that allowed the Rockets’ culture over the years. Harden set travel schedules and told former head coach Kevin McHale, as well as former teammates Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, ESPN’s farewell.

Publishers participating in a maskless social gathering amid the COVID-19 epidemic, while the rest of his team reported to the training camp, certainly did not help his prime Donna image before the season. Nor did his final public act as a Rocket, disappointing teammates after the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, saying they “just weren’t very good” before walking away from the podium.

We do not know how time will shape Hardik’s legacy. Perhaps he, Durant and Kyrie Irving win one or two titles in Brooklyn, so in the end Hardik can add “NBA champions” to his long list of achievements. But as his new (and former) teammate Durant knows, not all championships are created equal.

Despite the number of maneuvers and a lasting impact on the game that is already presenting itself, Hardik failed in his eight attempts to title the Rockets. Any hardware that comes after replacing himself with the two best players in the game in Brooklyn will come with an asterisk, and one implication will be that he was “just not good enough” to do it on his own in Houston.

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