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[USA Today] James Harden has a defense for his criticized defense

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by J.R., Oct 21, 2014.

  1. J.R.

    J.R. Member

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    James Harden has a defense for his criticized defense

    When Kevin McHale took an offseason step back to assess the 2012-13 season and James Harden's part in it, the Houston Rockets coach formulated a simple and substantive message for his 25-year-old star.

    "You're first-team all-NBA," says McHale, who made all-NBA first-team once during his playing days (1987) but surely values his three championships with the Boston Celtics far more. "I don't know of any higher team. You've done everything you can do that doesn't involve winning (a championship), and so everything from here on you're going to be judged only on how far we go in the playoffs, and that's going to come down to your (defense)."

    Behold Harden's challenge for the coming season. And know this much about Harden and the way he sees it: He's holding himself accountable from the start.

    ...

    "It's not a matter of whether I can or can't play defense," Harden says in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. "It's just a matter of me focusing for 48 minutes throughout a game and making sure that I'm always alert on both ends of the floor … It's up to me to go out there and show my leadership, to show that I can play both ends of the floor at a high level and just do it. If I have that approach, we're going to go a long ways."

    DEFENSIVE SCRUTINY

    Lest anyone think Harden is losing sleep at night with the scrutiny that surrounds him, he is not. He's still a top-tier talent who led all shooting guards in scoring (25.4 points a game, fifth in the NBA) and assists (6.1) last season. He's still the primary reason the Rockets are back on the proverbial map after Yao Ming's 2011 retirement ended a memorable era.

    ...

    "I'm comfortable," says Harden, who led Team USA in scoring as it won the gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. "(The past few years), it felt like everything was just coming my way. From playing in the Olympics in '12 to getting traded (months later) to not starting (while with the Thunder) to having my own team (with the Rockets) to Dwight (Howard) coming, it felt like everything was just falling in.

    "But now that I feel comfortable, that I feel relaxed, now I can just sit back and think about what I need to do as far as being a leader. How do I approach the game? How do I approach being a star? Just take it for what it is and enjoy it. That's all I can do, is enjoy it and have fun. Be yourself."

    Yet as it relates to Harden and the hot-topic discussion about his play, there are two undeniable truths. As he's the first to admit, there is a serious need for improvement. Despite adding three-time defensive player of the year Howard in free agency, the Rockets were 12th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (103.1), and Harden's lack of focus on that end played a significant part.

    But equally true, as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was quick to point out, is the fact that his now-infamous exploits on the defensive end have been overblown, largely because of the social media component that drives so much of the conversation surrounding professional sports these days.

    First, there was an 11-minute YouTube clip of Harden's worst defensive moments that went viral (1.4 million views and counting) in April and sparked the latest round of online laughs. Before long, even his contemporaries were taking shots.

    In September, Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson posted a picture on Instagram of Harden wearing a Dallas Cowboys headset with the caption, "Cowboys defensive coordinator ... " during a game in which the San Francisco 49ers were scoring at will against them.

    The dots weren't hard to connect, even though Lawson later tried to convince the world that he didn't mean it as a slight. This Harden-can't-defend fire continued to be fed.

    "For whatever reason, it has taken on a life of its own," Morey says about the criticism about Harden's defense. "You've got people doing a 10-minute YouTube clip that everyone references, and I just ask anyone, 'Take your worst 10 minutes from your job the last year and just take those worst 10 minutes and put them in a YouTube clip.' I'm guessing it wouldn't come out very well for anybody. That, to me, was completely unfair. That bothered me in a big way. Without context, you can grab 10 minutes of anyone and make them look like (expletive). I think reality TV proves that."

    ALL ABOUT CHEMISTRY

    The only reality that Harden and the Rockets care about now, of course, is the one that is undeniably fair. Without an elite defense, there's simply no way they'll overcome the losses of center Omer Asik (traded to the New Orleans Pelicans), point guard Jeremy Lin (traded to the Los Angeles Lakers) and Parsons (free agent signee with the Dallas Mavericks) to remain contenders in the Western Conference.

    From Morey on down, there is a renewed emphasis being placed on defense that is reflected in the roster moves during their disappointing summer. After losing out on free agent forward Chris Bosh, who re-signed with the Miami Heat, Houston added small forward Trevor Ariza (four years, $32 million), small forward Kostas Papanikolaou (back-to-back Euroleague titles with FC Barcelona Basquet) and forward Joey Dorsey, whom Morey has called the best defensive big man in Europe, to fit the toughness approach they are taking.

    Harden, like the rest of them, knows this is their new creed.

    "He knows that without him and Dwight putting focus on that end, it's not going to work," Morey says. "My sense is that he obviously understands that. When he's locked in, he's good."

    In turn, they understand that the offensive duties might need to be doled out differently this time around.

    "We put just such incredible pressure on him on offense — as much as any team in the league," Morey says. "We rely on him and Dwight. But James is No.1 on who we lean on offensively, and that gets really, really hard, especially in a playoff series. So that's a little unfair."

    As the Rockets learned in May, what they deem fair doesn't always matter. Lillard's buzzer-beating three-pointer from the deep left wing was as painful as they come, keeping Houston from overcoming the 3-1 series deficit and forcing a Game 7 at home. Now, Harden insists, they're better off for it.

    "Even though we didn't win that playoff series last year, guys took that and this summer worked very hard," he says. "I'm talking about Patrick Beverley, who played his first year as a starting point guard. Terrence Jones, who played his first year as a starting power forward. Those guys had their first year under their belt and we made the playoffs, so this year they worked extremely hard, watched a lot of film and got a lot better, so those two are going to be key for us. Trevor, obviously, who is a leader, who has won a championship (with the Lakers in 2009), who has that experience, who's a veteran guy who can help us. And then our bench. We've got a lot of young guys, and they've been working extremely hard this summer. It's going to be up to the leaders and guys to pick it up."

    So can they pick up the pieces enough to contend for a title?

    "Definitely," Harden says without hesitation. "It's all about chemistry. Whatever team it is, chemistry is the most important thing. You look at the Spurs, and they have a structure and they have a chemistry, and they're all on the same page, no matter what's happening.

    "If we can build that chemistry during the season, even when things are going bad to still have great chemistry, then we'll be great."
     
  2. arjun

    arjun Member

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    i think they mean "2013-2014" season..
     
  3. sirbaihu

    sirbaihu Member

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    We at ClutchFans helped spread that video making our own guy look bad.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    I don't care what Harden says in the preseason. I just want to see what he does on the court after the season starts.
     
  5. DreamShook

    DreamShook Member

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    lol, wut?
     
  6. bmd

    bmd Member

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    Well, the season is about to start and it will be put up or shut up time.
     
  7. bingsha10

    bingsha10 Member

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    Is there something you'd like to admit?
     
  8. shastarocket

    shastarocket Contributing Member

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    If we did, we should have. Being a fan doesn't mean unconditional love
     
  9. Haymitch

    Haymitch Custom Title
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    The video was made by a CFer.

    I ain't mad though. I'm glad he did it.
     
  10. cheke64

    cheke64 Member

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    Who was it?
     
    1 person likes this.
  11. Dhoward12

    Dhoward12 Member

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    Harden defense is gonne be better than Ariza's, way better actually.
     
  12. shsu33

    shsu33 Member

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    The video would have went viral w/o help from clutchfans. Maybe it would've been 1.3 mil views instead of 1.4. I saw it on the twitter(I like saying it that way) then came here to read what CF's were commenting about it.
     
  13. finsraider

    finsraider Member

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    Glad to hear the renewed focus on defense. Harden does have the ability, though I think he's better off guarding SFs than guards.

    Part of our problem, and Morey mentioned this, is that we demand too much from him on the offensive end. We've got to get another playmaker to help him reserve energy for the defensive end and throughout the playoffs.
     
  14. Richie_Rich

    Richie_Rich Member
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    This ^^^^^

    We've heard similar admissions and 'commitments' in past preseasons from him.

    The time has come to let his game do the talking.
     
  15. cheke64

    cheke64 Member

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    Link to where Morey said this
     
  16. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

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    Awww... Morey is afraid of hurting Harden's feelings.

    Harden needs to get himself diagnosed for ADHD and maybe start taking Adderal to improve his focus.
     
  17. jedicro

    jedicro Member

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    FWIW his defense has looked really good so far. Both on ball and off ball he's looked locked in. Hope he keeps it up.
     
  18. vlaurelio

    vlaurelio Contributing Member

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    It's in the article
     
  19. finsraider

    finsraider Member

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    "We put just such incredible pressure on him on offense — as much as any team in the league," Morey says. "We rely on him and Dwight. But James is No.1 on who we lean on offensively, and that gets really, really hard, especially in a playoff series. So that's a little unfair."
     
  20. Joe Joe

    Joe Joe Go Stros!
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    Actually...uncritical enthusiasm is a part of the definition of a fanatic.
     

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