The Houston Rockets are better than their 7-10 record, and part of the problem has been James Harden, who continues to do awful things on defense while shooting (and mostly missing) incoherently on offense, which in the long run is going to leave this team short of its intended goals and disappointed.
Things have been quiet in Houston since Kevin McHale got fired. They haven’t been winning a lot (two in a row vs Knicks and Sixers after three consecutive losses) but players might be a little bit happier and more willing to try and put in more of an effort. And the problems with Harden, which have been leaked out? So far we haven’t seen anyone punch him in the head during the game, and his assist for a Trevor Ariza 3-pointer sent the game to overtime, but Harden continues to do his thing, as if he exists on a separate plain from all the others, playing basketball as if it was meant for him, and no one else.
Harden scored 26 points in the game, but shot 10-of-28 from the field and shot 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. He even missed four free throws out of 10, something that doesn’t happen often. Having Patrick Beverley back in action has been very helpful, hiding some of Harden’s defensive flaws (most of them being not caring about playing defense), but the Rockets can’t keep playing like this – as if four other players are on the floor to serve one guy who doesn’t care about anything besides having the ball. He did have nine assists, but Harden costs his teams so many points on both ends of the floor by making the pass his last and least favorite option.
Harden is averaging 29.8 points per game this season with 6.4 assists a night, but he’s shooting just 40.1% from the field. Last season also started slowly for him shooting wise, but the Rockets overall looked better and more like a team. That’s the direction once again, and they might get there, with Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza playing a lot better and Beverley healthy for once. But this team was built to win a championship, and Harden staying exactly the same isn’t going to cut it.