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Jerry Colangelo on James Harden leading Team USA: ‘He’s the one’

Aug 27, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

Puerto Rico v United States Getty Images

James Harden hasn’t exactly acquitted himself well as a leader this offseason.

First, he said all his teammates besides Dwight Howard are role players. Then, when patching things up with Chandler Parsons, he clarified he wasn’t talking about the new Mavericks forward. See, Harden meant all his current teammates were below he and Howard in the pecking order.

No matter what Harden truly believes – and I doubt his opinions are as sinister as they came across – he kept sticking his foot in his mouth. Part of leadership is inspiring other players, and regardless of your intentions, that’s hard to do when you keep denigrating them.

But with Team USA, Harden has been a model leader.

Mike Krzyzewski has raved about Harden’s leadership, and now Jerry Colangelo joins the chorus. Colangelo, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

“Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said as his team continues to prepare for the tournament in which the winner earns an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.”

Colangelo said Harden has been one of the team’s most vocal players and has helped elevate practices with his effort and tenacity.

“I don’t know if he’s been waiting [to lead]. It’s evolved,” Colangelo said. “He came in as a pretty high draft pick. Got off to a great start in Oklahoma City. Whether he was disappointed or surprised by what transpired, he found himself in another uniform and that’s part of life in pro sports and the NBA, and I think he’s adjusted to that and his numbers get bigger and he’s being recognized more and more as the player he is. And this is a great platform for him to come out as a leader.”

What’s gotten into Harden? He’s even showing effort on defense in advance of the World Cup.*

Harden, via Lee:

“First of all, you got the top players in the world on your team, so if you’re not focused and locked in on defense, they are going to embarrass you,” Harden said. “I think our coach has done a phenomenal job of making sure we’re keyed in. [Chicago Bulls Coach and Team USA assistant Tom] Thibodeau is phenomenal with that defensive presence, so all those things collectively is why I’m so locked in.”

In some ways, this probably comes naturally to Harden. He and Anthony Davis are the only members of the World Cup roster to play in the 2012 Olympics, and Davis hadn’t even begun his NBA career prior to London. Harden is the American team’s elder statesman.

But I also think Harden has more to offer when pushed. It’s up to Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey to challenge him in Houston next season.

Harden is doing his part to reach the next level. The Rockets can and should learn from Team USA how to help get the most from him.

  1. 88heatnation - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    I know he’s not leading on the defensive end that’s for one.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Or in the lunchroom.

      • Hard On For Harden - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:31 AM

        At least run with something that actually ya know, happened.

      • ddarqwon - Aug 28, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        @ Hard On For Harden:

        You know lies are more entertaining than the truth.

  2. goldmember21 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Exactly ^

  3. jerryreesespieces - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    * ?

  4. zoomy123 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    James Harden is the biggest imposter in the NBA. He’s choked in every postseason for the last 3 years and he’s the best SG in an era when the position is the weakest it’s ever been.

    • rrhoe - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:40 AM

      I remember James Hardens last collegiate game,missed two free throws that could’ve won/tied the game and he missed both and I wondered what all the hype was about then. The game was in Philly(my hometown by the way) but it seems to have been a precursor to how his NBA career is playing out so far,who would’ve thought…….

      • franbotel - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:44 AM

        If you want to complain about harden use facts like his defense not opinions.
        I will take the words of Colangelo and coach K over the keyboard experts. How many players can you honestly say have had a better career the harden since he joined the league less than 5 i will say. It not like the thunder’s were better off after he left.

  5. mackcarrington - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    I can’t wait for this tournament to begin and end.

  6. campcouch - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:12 AM

    Either the other players are setting him up to be the scapegoat if they fail, or Jerry C has that outsider perception that the loudest guy in the room must be the leader.

  7. antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    Good for Harden. He has a lot of haters right now and I think things like this are irritating them to no end. I support that 100%.

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