Skip to content

Teams are adjusting, now James Harden must adjust, too

Nov 8, 2012, 3:49 PM EDT

James Harden, Kenneth Faried AP

For a couple games, nobody knew what to expect of James Harden in a Houston Rockets uniform. We knew he could play — Sixth Man of the Year, Olympic gold medalist — but the setting with him as the man and not a playmaking third option was going to be very different.

The result was a 37- then 45-point game to open the season. James Harden had arrived.

Then, NBA defenses adjusted. Harden was 5-of-15 Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets who stuck Andre Iguodala — one of the league’s best perimeter defenders — on him then brought help (often Kenneth Faried). The result was 15 points and two assists to six turnovers. It’s not unlike what Portland did in the Rockets previous game with Nicolas Batum, and the result was 24 Harden points but on 24 shots. He has shot 33.3 percent in the last two games.

Harden’s freedom to attack is gone and both he and the Rockets will need to adapt now. He has to grow into the role as the No. 1 option, his teammates need to see how to work better with him, coach Kevin McHale needs to run plays that put him in a position to succeed.

The first adaptation falls to Harden: He can’t hesitate. After watching Harden’s shots again from his last two games (on Synergy Sports), you notice that his natural inclination was to catch the ball and survey the land then shoot or attack, but with the long and athletic defenders he faced that just gave them time to close on him and contest jumpers, to limit his options. He needs a plan and to attack more quickly. He started to do that more near the end of the Nuggets game.

Harden is still very effective in transition (64.7 percent shooting in that situation). The Rockets are running at a pretty fair clip this season but more transition is good, as is more Harden cutting and working off the ball.

His bread and butter is still the ball handler on the pick-and-roll and you can see the Rockets are still trying to figure things out. That’s something Harden admitted to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.

“Even though we didn’t play well, it’s still just our fourth game together,” Harden said. “As the games go on, we’ll get better and it’s just the fact that we haven’t played together, we haven’t had a training camp or have time to really put in some sets, so we’re kind of figuring things out as we go.”

Harden is figuring things out, too. He has not had to be in this role and had to have elite defenders and double teams coming at him whenever he steps on the court. And things do not get easier for him with Memphis and Tony Allen plus Miami and LeBron James coming up in the next week for the Rockets.

It’s a process. One that is just getting started in Houston.

Latest Posts
  1. PBT Extra: Houston, Dallas simply do not like each other

    Apr 18, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Their rivalry goes back until the Dwight Howard free agent recruitment. If not earlier.

  2. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: ‘There’s no more predictable team than the Rockets’

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014 - Day 1 Getty Images

    Cuban also says of Houston: “that’s not a very good team over there.”

  3. PBT staff playoff predictions: Lots of Golden State love from us

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Draymond Green, LeBron James AP

    Three PBT writers pick the Warrior to beat the Cavaliers in the Finals.

  4. PBT Extra: Injuries make Grizzlies, Trail Blazers series hard to predict

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    Marc Gasol Marc Gasol

    Wesley Matthews. Arron Afflalo. Nicolas Batum. C.J. McCollum. Chris Kaman. Mike Conley. Tony Allen. All injured.

  5. PBT Extra: Will Spurs depth, versatility prove too much for Clippers?

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    I just think Doc Rivers the GM has tied the hands of Doc Rivers the coach too much — the Spurs versatility and depth gives Gregg Popovich more options.

  6. PBT Extra: Anthony Davis, Pelicans made playoffs. Will they get a fifth game vs. Warriors?

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    It’s great to see Anthony Davis on the playoff stage for the first time. Even if it doesn’t last long.

  7. PBT Awards: All-NBA

    Apr 17, 2015, 1:11 PM EDT

    NBA All-Star Game 2015 Getty Images

    Four of five first-team spots are unanimous

  8. Rumor: LaMarcus Aldridge more likely to leave Trail Blazers in free agency than people realize

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyson Chandler AP

    That may be true, but he’s still likely to stick in Portland

  9. PBT Awards: MVP

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Serbia v USA - 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championship Getty Images

    The 3-1 edge goes to…

  10. PBT First-Round Playoff Previews: Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    Derrick Rose, Jerryd Bayless Derrick Rose, Jerryd Bayless

    The Bucks’ elite defense will have its work cut out for it with the Bulls’ much-improved offense.

Featured video

Can Boston put a scare in Cleveland?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (5325)
  2. L. James (5189)
  3. C. Parsons (4987)
  4. P. George (4683)
  5. D. Rose (4569)
  1. R. Westbrook (4563)
  2. M. Conley (4466)
  3. S. Curry (4290)
  4. K. Bryant (4260)
  5. M. Gasol (4174)