1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Rockets’ James Harden Chases M.V.P. With a Blizzard of Free Throws

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by phantoman, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. phantoman

    phantoman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    1,538
    Likes Received:
    260
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/04/1...-harden-bolsters-scoring-with-foul-shots.html

    Rockets’ James Harden Chases M.V.P. With a Blizzard of Free Throws


    James Harden, center, getting fouled by the Clippers' Chris Paul, left. Through Sunday, Harden had registered 800 free throws, the most in the N.B.A.
    ROBERT HANASHIRO / USA TODAY SPORTS, VIA REUTERS
    By ANDREW KEH
    APRIL 13, 2015
    HOUSTON — It was just after the Houston Rockets finished practice Saturday afternoon, and as James Harden sensed that his conversation with a visitor was pivoting to the subject of his supposed ability to coax fouls from defenders, he felt the need to clear something up.

    “You know what? I don’t look to get fouled, as people might think I do,” Harden said, darting his eyes left and right to caricature the notion. “I’m not like: ‘Where’s the foul? Where’s the foul?’ as I’m driving.”

    His only aim is to score the basket, Harden said, and if any defenders want to swipe at the ball to stop him, they can. But, he added, when he makes a move to the basket, he drives hard, and fouls are sometimes a byproduct.

    Still, he was asked, what about the way he flattens out his arms to make them susceptible to being smacked, or how he changes pace on his dribble at counterintuitive times to create collisions, or his tendency to cling to defenders’ bodies even when freer paths to the rim seem to exist?

    Harden smiled. “That’s just being crafty,” he said.

    Drawing fouls has long been acknowledged as an art and an advantageous skill in the N.B.A., and Harden — if the eye-popping numbers and the testimony from teammates, coaches, analysts and even begrudging opponents are to be believed — has mastered it to an extreme.


    At 25, Harden has distinguished himself as one of the league’s great scorers, averaging 27.5 points this season, and when the regular season ends Wednesday, he could win his first scoring title, although he is in a neck-and-neck battle with his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook. The next day, voting for the league’s most valuable player will close, and it is widely thought that the award will go to Harden or Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

    A crucial factor in Harden’s remarkable season has been his production at the free-throw line. Through Sunday, Harden had registered a league-high 800 free throws and had made 693. Second, far behind, was Westbrook, who had attempted 629 and made 525. Through 80 games — only one of which he had missed — Harden was averaging 10 free-throw attempts, with 8.8 of them successful. Both figures were also league highs.

    If he continues apace, he will become just the 11th player in N.B.A. history to sink more than 700 free throws in a season.

    “Getting fouled is definitely an art, and he’s very good at it,” Rockets Coach Kevin McHale said, adding that Harden’s body awareness allowed him to initiate contact that works in his favor.

    “You either know how to draw fouls or don’t, and I’m not sure you can teach it,” McHale added. “It may be innate.”

    Whether or not Harden seeks to get fouled, then, may not be much of a debate at all, and the discord around the subject may simply stem from semantics and questions over the level of intent he brings to such plays. Foul calls are forever a touchy subject among basketball professionals, and Harden’s initial impulse to push back against the notion may come from a hesitance to be viewed as someone who seeks to deceive referees.

    Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, disputed the premise that Harden did anything special to draw fouls.

    On the other hand, Harden had no problem with characterizations of his foul-drawing abilities as crafty or instinctive.

    Steve Javie, a former N.B.A. referee who analyzes officiating for ESPN, explained that Harden had an uncanny knack for sensing when a defender had entered into an illegal guarding position and initiating contact at that very moment, creating a defensive foul that might not have materialized otherwise.

    How does he do it, then? To start, Harden’s tactics would not work if he did not already possess a devastatingly varied offensive skill set. Among casual viewers, he may not inspire the same delight as Curry, who fires shots from absurd ranges and swaggers back down the court before they land, like an action-movie star strolling away from an explosion. But Harden’s intelligence and technical sophistication have won him widespread admiration.

    Harden’s most famous moves are the Euro step drive — “He’s the best doing it,” Manu Ginobili, a progenitor of the move, said Friday — and his step-back jump shot, which he can use to create open 3-point attempts. Having perfected those two moves, Harden said, he wanted to learn two more.

    He is an elite dribbler and shooter. He starts and stops, speeds forward and back and side to side, a remote-control car with a rocket launcher. That he is left-handed adds a complicating wrinkle for defenders.


    “It’s difficult to ever figure out what he’s going to do because he scores in such a variety of ways,” said Terry Stotts, the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, who knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs last season.

    Harden’s array of weapons instills in defenders high levels of respect, fear, urgency and uncertainty and a basic desire to stop whatever Harden might be doing at a given moment. In turn, he plays off these impulses. It helps that he has strong hands and an equally strong grasp of league rules.

    Harden’s most idiosyncratic maneuver involves holding the ball away from his body, like a waiter balancing a tray of tempting hors d’oeuvres — or as Harden refers to it, “the cookie jar.”

    “Just when you think you can reach and get a steal, he takes his arm up into your arms, and that’s an automatic foul,” said Markel Brown of the Nets, who helped hold Harden to 15 points in a Feb. 27 game. “You’re fouling him, but he pretty much made you foul him.”


    Harden colliding with Alonzo Gee of Portland. “Getting fouled is definitely an art, and he’s very good at it,” Rockets Coach Kevin McHale said.
    DON RYAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Such a loss of self-determination is common among those who guard Harden. He isolates defenders, stares them down, flinches, twitches, and moves his eyeballs. If the opponent loses his equilibrium, Harden accelerates, clipping a piece of hip or shoulder or leg on the way.

    “He’ll lull you to sleep,” said Cory Joseph of the Spurs. “He gets you on your heels, almost moves you where he wants you, and then he works his angles to get contact and a foul call and also get his shot off.”

    Thus Harden punishes defenders for even a split-second of laziness. “As a defender, you better be doing everything right,” Harden said. “I’m talking about hands out of the cookie jar, sliding your feet, straight up.”

    Even after he has passed a player, Harden has an innate sense of how to change pace and position his body to outwit the defender. As Clyde Drexler, a former Rockets player who now does television commentary for the team, said: “When he gets by you, he doesn’t let you get back into the play. He keeps a hand or a body on you, so you’re always behind him.”

    That technique was on display last Wednesday in a game against the Spurs. In the first quarter, isolated near the baseline, Harden performed an arrhythmic hopscotch to get around Tony Parker. At that point, Harden could have surged ahead, but instead he slowed down and let his free left arm hang behind him. Parker, who had spun to give chase, knocked into it, and a whistle blew.

    Parker pirouetted, palms out, flabbergasted. He pleaded his innocence to Brian Forte, the referee who had made the call. “You know what he does,” Parker said to Forte, shaking his head.

    It seems to have dawned on some opposing coaches that the best way to stop Harden from scoring could be to stop playing basketball altogether. Two nights later, the teams met again, and the Spurs employed a strategy of intentionally fouling forward Josh Smith, who was shooting 49.6 percent from the foul line through Sunday.


    For all of Harden’s proficiency at the line, the Rockets started this week shooting just 71.5 percent from the foul line, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

    At one point in the second half of the game against San Antonio, after yet another intentional foul, Harden started yapping good-naturedly at Gregg Popovich, the Spurs’ coach, and the two proceeded to have a sportsmanly conversation.

    “I said, ‘Come on, Pop, you’ve got to stop doing this now,’ ” Harden recalled the next day. “And he was like: ‘I’m not going to give you the ball in the fourth quarter so you can get it going. This is me slowing you down, stopping you, so you can’t get a rhythm.’ The strategy worked.”

    Few other attempts to stop Harden — or keep him off the line — have worked. Harden scored 50 points on March 19, 22 of them on free throws. Four days later, he scored 44 points, 21 of them from the foul line. No other player this season has had even one game in which he made 20 foul shots.

    Harden, who is 6 feet 5 inches, will become just the fifth player of that height or shorter to lead the league in made free throws since the N.B.A. and the American Basketball Association merged in 1976, according to ESPN statistics.

    Trevor Ariza, Harden’s teammate, said Harden’s aggressiveness had broad benefits.

    “It works for all of us because he gets us to the bonus really, really fast, just because of his strength and craftiness,” Ariza said. “He’s figured stuff out that nobody else could, and he’s making it work for him.”

    When Harden first began to figure things out, it was partly to get hamburgers. At Artesia High School in Lakewood, Calif., he had a relatively passive disposition on the court, and his coach, Scott Pera, felt a need to change that. On top of various other drills and motivational tactics, Pera challenged Harden to get at least six free-throw attempts every game. If Harden fell short, he did extra running. But if he got six, Pera had to buy him pizza or a burger or some other greasy treat.

    By the time Harden graduated from high school, he had procured quite a few burgers.

    “To be a great scorer, you need to get to the foul line,” said Pera, now an assistant coach at Rice.

    Since then, Harden’s mind-set has remained the same, but the potential rewards — a scoring title, an M.V.P. Award, a championship trophy — are rather different.
     
  2. napalm06

    napalm06 #FireBillObrien
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2008
    Messages:
    18,810
    Likes Received:
    13,879
    Harden just needs to be careful about talking. He is going to end up in McGrady situations.

    For example:
    “I’m not like: ‘Where’s the foul? Where’s the foul?’ as I’m driving.”

    We saw this twice last night highlighted by Bullard (granted his beef was EXTREMELY legitimate. The refs were missing blatant karate chops but probably did not call them since he made the layups.... stupid but a totally different conversation).
     
  3. Haymitch

    Haymitch Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2005
    Messages:
    22,260
    Likes Received:
    8,993
    Good thing this didn't happen at the college level, otherwise there would be hell to pay.
     
  4. MistaK

    MistaK Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2010
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    161
    I think you kinda missed the point he was trying to make. Read the entire quote:

    “You know what? I don’t look to get fouled, as people might think I do,” Harden said, darting his eyes left and right to caricature the notion. “I’m not like: ‘Where’s the foul? Where’s the foul?’ as I’m driving.”

    All that he is really trying to say is, that he is looking to finish the plays and not looking for a foul call to bail him out - a lot of ppl think that this is all he does. This quote is not about him complaining about non-calls.
     
  5. RESINator

    RESINator Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2014
    Messages:
    1,911
    Likes Received:
    400
    I hope el_locotreee and all the other overboard analytic apologists are reading.

    "Bu.. bu.. but we were +4 during that stretch.", they say. All they look at are the numbers and not the flow of the game. Getting real sick of it
     
  6. phantoman

    phantoman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    1,538
    Likes Received:
    260
    I think this is probably the best article I have read in a long time In regards to the mindset of harden. He is pretty self aware and I love the banter between him
    And pop.
     
  7. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2002
    Messages:
    45,665
    Likes Received:
    5,364
    The real reason is because he has amazing body control. No one can change directions like that, or jump in the air at weird angles while maintaining control.
     
  8. bmd

    bmd Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2012
    Messages:
    7,395
    Likes Received:
    2,141
  9. photojoe

    photojoe Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2013
    Messages:
    2,974
    Likes Received:
    2,749
    I'm pretty tired of this narrative that James Harden only plays to get fouled. And I'm sick of people saying that the Rockets are boring to watch because they only shoot free throws (except for the games where the hack-a-rocket strategy is being used. Those games are boring).


    Kevin Durant last year won the MVP. He shot 805 free throws during the season (Harden has shot 800 so far this year). Durant averaged 9.9 Free Throw attempts per game last year, Harden is currently averaging 10.1

    How come no one says that Durant is boring to watch? How come nobody says that he only plays to get fouled? You don't hear anyone say that Durant's game isn't aesthetically pleasing like I have heard people say about Harden. A terrible recent Grantland article written by Andrew Sharp said that "turns basketball into a flopping Olympics" and that "spends 10 to 20 percent of Rockets possessions hurling himself into the defense in search of a bailout call. It’s jarring to watch. It feels wrong when it works."

    Durant shot almost as many free throws last year. And not once did anyone mention anything like this.
     
  10. napalm06

    napalm06 #FireBillObrien
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2008
    Messages:
    18,810
    Likes Received:
    13,879
    OK, good point. I agree with that.

    Overall it was a very good writeup.
     
  11. solodolo11

    solodolo11 Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2010
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    172
    So he's missed 107 free throws this season? Unacceptable. Trade him now.
     
  12. J Sizzle

    J Sizzle Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    38,371
    Likes Received:
    19,239
    I guess I'm just at the point where I'm tired of everything I read about Harden being about free throws or his beard.
     
  13. i3artow i3aller

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Messages:
    7,160
    Likes Received:
    1,327
    It’s pretty easy to get caught up watching James Harden do his thing.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Kim

    Kim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 1999
    Messages:
    7,232
    Likes Received:
    969
    Only thing I remember was Phil Jackson preemptively complaining about it during the playoffs many years ago. And the article is misleading when saying Westbrook is far behind in free throws without the context of all his missed games.
     
  15. i3artow i3aller

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Messages:
    7,160
    Likes Received:
    1,327
  16. el_locoteee

    el_locoteee Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2007
    Messages:
    3,136
    Likes Received:
    240
    I guess the non existing hacking in the first 2 quarter took his rhythm out when green was locking him up and when the bench destroy our bench. I guess all the awful shooting after the all star break is because of the hacking. I guess that block in the game winning layup is a cause of him being out of rhythm.

    What happened next game when they try the same? Maybe the reason was we didn't turn the ball over like crazy and brewer didn't suck and our bench didn't such. Not to blame brewer he said he was having a shoulder problem, but the rhythm is a cheap excuse.

    What was Harden excuse in the game in SA the didn't do excessive hacking and they got blow out by the bench.
     
  17. SemisolidSnake

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,634
    Likes Received:
    3,736
    I saw nytimes.com in the link, so I knew immediately to skip it. I will post this, though: http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/ft_season.html

    Hmm, Kevin Durant made 703 free throws last year when he was named MVP. Harden is currently 10 behind that. Durant made 756 free throws in his '09-'10 season (2nd in MVP voting that year). Kobe Bryant: 05'-'06: 696 FTs (4th in MVP voting). Oh, and some dude named Michael Jordan made 833 FTs in the '86-'87 season. He came in second in MVP voting that year, but I think history has clearly shown that to be a fluke, and that dude was never that great a player.

    Ooooooorrrrrrrrr.......mmmmaaaaayyybbbbeeeeee.....great players get fouled a lot because no one can guard them. As I've said before, if this was Golden State Warrior James Harden instead of Houston Rocket James Harden, they're be a completely different narrative altogether, so go eat <insert word(s) of your choice here>, national media.
     
  18. Aleron

    Aleron Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2010
    Messages:
    11,493
    Likes Received:
    1,013
    the way harden drives was never about drawing fouls, but that it does draw them is part of why he keeps it.

    He gets past his man, gets on his hip and then puts the ball out to clear it from his man, his issue comes with defenders who have really long arms and can still get the ball from behind but 98% of defenders if they swipe can only get his arms, so the disciplined ones don't, but that effectively takes them out of the play, which is the goal.
     
  19. SemisolidSnake

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2013
    Messages:
    3,634
    Likes Received:
    3,736
    Had to fix that.
     
  20. dylan0023

    dylan0023 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2015
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    McHale has COST James Harden the SCORING TITLE, TONIGHT

    McHale is so incompetent and ignorant, is all I can say.

    THE ROCKETS MUST FIRE McHALE, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

    By keeping James on the bench in the 4th quarter in the last 3 games he has cost James the SCORING TITLE, and for what???

    James need to score 40 points in the Hornet game and 40 in the last game to have a chance for the Scoring Title and McHale BENCHED ALL JAMES CHANCES TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    AND MAYBE THE MVP AWARD..............
     
Loading...

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now