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!

Yahoo Sports: Rockets Star James Harden Making Defensive Strides

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Shaq2Yao, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Shaq2Yao

    Shaq2Yao Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2006
    Messages:
    6,879
    Likes Received:
    13,114
    https://sports.yahoo.com/why-james-harden-is-even-better-than-you-think-143013213.html

    In the third quarter of a recent game at the TD Garden, James Harden is crouched down, facing Kyrie Irving. The Boston Celtics guard is crafty, explosive, speedy — the kind of player who has mercilessly torched Harden and contributed to his infamous defensive lowlight reels. And he is revving up like he knows it.

    Irving crosses to his left. Harden mirrors him, so Irving tries to muscle past him on his right. That’s when Clint Capela, the Houston Rockets’ defensive anchor, catches up to switch. Before retreating to Capela’s man, Harden swipes at the ball, forcing Irving to pick it up, and then he plants himself inside the only open passing lane on the floor, goading Irving to throw the ball right into Harden’s hands. That’s exactly what Irving does, as Harden snatches his second steal of the night en route to the Rockets’ fifth straight victory on March 3.

    It’s no coincidence that Harden’s best defensive season has dawned while the arms race between offensive space and the defenders who encroach on it teeters toward an ancient creed: Even in the NBA, all warfare is based on deception.

    Brute force is proving no match for subtle sleights of hand — look-offs, head fakes, pass fakes and hesitations. Defenses, tired of holding up a piece of cardboard against a tidal wave, have gotten craftier, too. There’s the XL, where one defender tricks two weakside spacers into thinking he can close out on them, and stunted rotations, where the defender momentarily sags off a shooter just to persuade a driving player to kick the ball out. Being in position is just as important as convincing your opponent you’ll be in position, which is fertile ground for Harden, the NBA’s most talented actor, whether he’s flopping to draw a foul or lulling defenders to sleep before popping a shot in their faces.

    Harden is enjoying the best statistical season of his career, scoring a godly 36.2 points, dishing out 7.5 assists and picking up 2.1 steals per game. “It’s funny to say that he got better,” Capela said. “Especially when you see a player average 30, you think that’s it. Not gonna go higher than that. And then … he keeps going.” But while his guile wins games, it loses fans. If Harden wrangles his second MVP award from Giannis Antetokounmpo’s monstrous grip, it will not be by way of grace or storyline, but, like much of his game, by overwhelming numerical force.

    He started building his case early in December, when a string of injuries, imperfect shooting and losses threatened Houston’s season. The Rockets looked disconnected, even dispirited. After losing to the Utah Jazz and dropping to 13th place in the West, veteran guard Eric Gordon confessed, “I’m just not having fun.” That’s when Harden flipped the switch, tearing off a 32-game 30-point scoring streak spanning 10 weeks that included 17 missed games from fellow All-Star Chris Paul, 15 missed games from Capela, and eight from Gordon. The unsustainable became the inevitable, catapulting the Rockets back into NBA Finals contention. “He’s phenomenal,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He saved us. He turned the whole season around.”

    Rockets defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik took note of something else: Harden was imposing his superior intellect on his biggest weakness — defense. “He’s an intelligent guy,” Bzdelik said. “He knows his positioning well. That’s why he’s able to get those deflections, steals and he knows how to defend in the post. His intelligence allows him to anticipate, and the anticipation gets him in position in a quicker, positive way. Because he scores so much, a lot of that is overlooked.”

    He has swiped more balls than anyone but Defensive Player of the Year candidate Paul George. Harden leads the NBA with 3.8 deflections per game, despite the fact that his average speed — among players who actually play — is the second slowest in the NBA, ahead of only Dirk Nowitzki. Harden isn’t zipping all over the floor or gambling for steals. Good decision-making in the age of deception is not a matter of taking the right risks; it’s recognizing which plays aren’t risky at all. On both sides of the ball, Harden moves economically. He uses his mind to outplay opponents, regulating his fatigue while playing 37.3 minutes per game and leading the NBA in usage rate.

    “Shawn Marion was a little bit like that,” D’Antoni said of the player he coached with the Phoenix Suns. “He could play big minutes and play forever. There are certain guys who do it. As they say, [Harden] is a fast healer. He could turn his ankle one day and the next day it looks like he didn’t turn it. James is durable. A lot of minutes. He’s 29. That’s probably not talked about enough, how he carries this load all the time.”’

    Pacing himself for the playoffs? Harden won’t hear of it. He rejects the edicts of load management and injury prevention. Ball players play ball games. “I just love to hoop,” Harden said. “I just love to play basketball. This time won’t last forever. You know what I’m saying? So I embrace it. I enjoy the grind. I enjoy tired legs. I enjoy having to find ways.”

    His obsession with the game is all-consuming. He can’t stop playing or searching the margins of the rulebook for edges to exploit and moves to invent, like the double-stepback jumper that, by the book, is not a travel. The gamesmanship alone should be admirable. Here is a player who is redefining the shape of the game by maximizing his greatest skill in a league that is slowly favoring it more and more. He became elite by taking the only avenue allowed to him and trying things nobody before dared to.

    Sounds familiar, right? So why don’t fans love Harden like they loved Steph Curry? Hell, why don’t they love him at all?

    “He gets to the foul line a lot, and opposing fans don’t like it,” D’Antoni said. “He tricks the other players, and opposing fans don’t like it. You hear the boos and stuff. Too bad, you know? He is smart and he knows what he can do and he gets guys to fall for it.”

    Harden is a trickster who’s largely impervious to his own ploys. He splits weak double-teams, Eurosteps away from stunts, forces commitment and senses patterns. He knows when you mean it, while making himself hard to read in turn; his floater and lob even take on the same form until the final flick of the wrist.

    He’s an innovator, pushing the game in a direction few want to see it go. More threes? Great. Exciting. More free throws? Not so much. Every barreling drive and arm lock reconfigures the league every so slightly in his image. It likely won’t win him any affection or a second MVP. But that won’t change the facts: The game is becoming all exploitive neuroscience, a series of brain games that evoke false reads. And Harden’s beady eyes have cut through the rubbish like nothing else.
     
  2. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2000
    Messages:
    25,371
    Likes Received:
    17,026
    this has to be one of the better writing journalists covering the league right now
     
    Handles, don grahamleone and Vivi like this.
  3. Shaq2Yao

    Shaq2Yao Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2006
    Messages:
    6,879
    Likes Received:
    13,114
    This is very interestingo_O.
     
  4. VooDooPope

    VooDooPope Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 1999
    Messages:
    7,702
    Likes Received:
    1,626
    good article if he had left out this unnecessary jab "....which is fertile ground for Harden, the NBA’s most talented actor, whether he’s flopping to draw a foul or lulling defenders to sleep before popping a shot in their faces."

    He may embellish contact to get the call but make no doubt about it... he's getting fouled. He doesn't just flop to flop with no contact at all.
     
    bro2044, Reeko, 34to11 and 3 others like this.
  5. lnchan

    lnchan LeonardTX26
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2010
    Messages:
    4,372
    Likes Received:
    5,544
    ...considering Harden hasn't even been cast for Space Jam 2, Uncle Drew, Thunderstruck, or Kazaam...
     
    VooDooPope and don grahamleone like this.
  6. Roxfreak724

    Roxfreak724 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,039
    Likes Received:
    1,376
    Give this article a click, don't just read the text.

    Also, once you go to the link there is a video of the writer speaking as well, worth a watch
     
  7. topfive

    topfive CF OG
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2002
    Messages:
    16,128
    Likes Received:
    29,047
  8. Pizza_Da_Hut

    Pizza_Da_Hut I put on pants for this?

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2003
    Messages:
    11,323
    Likes Received:
    4,111
    DPOY, MVP and FMVP? I'd be down.
     
  9. Shaq2Yao

    Shaq2Yao Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2006
    Messages:
    6,879
    Likes Received:
    13,114
  10. bmelo

    bmelo Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2018
    Messages:
    1,895
    Likes Received:
    2,182
    Nike nike nike ‍♂️
     
    lnchan likes this.
  11. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Insider Newsletter™ 2X Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2001
    Messages:
    33,359
    Likes Received:
    13,879
    Beat me to it.

    I've been ok with Harden's defensive lapses because of his offensive genius.

    It's been insipiring for him not to be satisfied like that
     
  12. ROXTXIA

    ROXTXIA Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2000
    Messages:
    18,054
    Likes Received:
    8,395
    WTF just happened?! Did someone just praise Harden's defense and go against the national narrative?
     
  13. smokieethabear

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    846
    Likes Received:
    562
    He's taking defensive strides as well as 3 to 4 strides without dribbling the ball.. so he still travels! ;)
     
  14. AceOfSpades

    AceOfSpades Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Messages:
    456
    Likes Received:
    929
    Someones been hanging out with CP3 too much :D
     
  15. T for 3

    T for 3 Not a true fan

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    3,622
    Likes Received:
    3,215
    Maybe there is no illuminati-like conspiracy after all......maybe, just maybe....it takes the national media wayyyyy longer to recognize something than it does a hardcore rockets fan.

    Why?

    1. They don't consistently watch Rockets basketball

    2. They don't consistently watch NBA basketball.

    3. When they do watch NBA basketball, it is not in a nuanced way like a hardcore fan ("Oh KD scored, that KD is so big and tall!!")

    4. They are lazy, and enjoy the status quo.

    5. A number of them are not too bright.

    If you throw in the clear Houston bias, it's no surprise James has to go on a run like this to start shifting narrative.
     
    diehardrockets and 34to11 like this.
  16. don grahamleone

    don grahamleone Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2001
    Messages:
    20,150
    Likes Received:
    20,484
    Thx for posting that. I did, then I followed her on twitter and left her a kind message. She's great!
     
    diehardrockets likes this.
  17. RocketsFan247

    RocketsFan247 Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    736
    Likes Received:
    1,023
    An article worthy of a click
     
    diehardrockets likes this.
  18. RocketsFan247

    RocketsFan247 Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    736
    Likes Received:
    1,023
    Another one of Seerat's articles just recently:
    https://sports.yahoo.com/is-it-time-we-recognize-the-rockets-as-the-nb-as-best-team-185353802.html

    Harden's defense definitely has improved but it's been slow and gradual which is a good thing. For someone this great who has had such huge gaps in his game (lefty only, not as athletic, disappearing act in certain reg season / playoff games, long defensive lapses), he gives new value to debunking load management. Some of that stuff you can practice in the offseason, but we've all seen how he's used the regular season to refine some of those things in-game. Imagine if he was "load managing" this season: his improvement on the defensive end would not be something that we could imagine ourselves relying on come playoffs. More games, more improvement is what I see from him. He's converted Skip into a believer now with them mentions of "looking different this season than all the others; he's got that look, that confidence; that calmness in his attitude". I think his commitment on the defensive end in a Rocket jersey started with that WCF series last year. He was showing some really nice defensive plays that also burdened his offense. Him learning to pick and choose this regular season is something I have confidence will show itself in the post-season.
     
    diehardrockets likes this.
  19. mikus

    mikus Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    624
    Likes Received:
    182
    Man, I facepalm at the comments in the OP's article. They are either a bunch of trolls or lost their minds. Their hate for Harden is just completely irrational. There's one dude from Houston posting against a bunch of trolls. Makes it seem like outside of us(Rockets fans) 90% of fans are against Harden.
     
  20. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum Houston Knicks fan
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2014
    Messages:
    34,998
    Likes Received:
    47,833
    media conspiracy
     

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