HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – James Harden has been the leader in the NBA’s MVP discussion for most of the 2014-15 season, and his triple double in Tuesday night’s 113-102 win over the Timberwolves was just another reminder that he is playing at a different level.
However, despite the talk of adding the individual award to his mantle this summer, the “relationship” with Amber Rose, and the Sports Illustrated cover story; Harden is only focused on the next game in front of him.
Harden at Tuesday’s practice was asked at the start of his media session if he feels he’s the best player in the NBA. He hesitated with a response but turned the focus to his team and the next opponent.
“We play the Clippers tomorrow and that’s what I’m focused on,” Harden said. “We had a pretty good practice today.. we’ve got a big game tomorrow.”
Harden’s reluctance to talk about the MVP and turning the attention towards the Clippers is understandable. Los Angeles is a team that the Rockets have struggled against in recent history with the Clippers winning six straight against Houston and 11 of the last 12 meetings dating back to the 2011-12 season.
“They are a good team ,they are very well coached and they’ve got a great leader in Chris Paul and obviously DeAndre Jordan is playing well,” Harden said. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us tomorrow. It’s a great opportunity to go out here tomorrow to come out and play with some excitement.”
In the last outing versus the Clippers on February 11th, the Rockets took 45 three-point attempts, but made only nine in a 110-95 loss. While three-point shooting is something that paces the Rockets, Harden pointed out that needed to find the best shot and do more as a team to create more open three-point attempts.
“We can’t settle,” Harden said. There’s going to be opportunities where we’ve got good shots, but we’ve got to turn those good shots into great shots. If that means driving a good shot and getting into the paint and creating for another person then that’s what it has to be.”
Harden mentioned that the Clippers play them well and they need to have a different pace when they host them at Toyota Center Wednesday night.
“They’re a really good defensive team especially when you just hold the ball.. so we gotta play faster.”
While Harden may no longer want to discuss his play as an individual, his coach and teammates have no problem touting the success of the league’s leading scorer.
“James has been playing really at a high level,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “As I said all year long, we don’t have the record that we have have if James is not playing at really high level.”
“He’s the MVP right now, Corey Brewer said. “He’s playing great, he’s helping us win basketball games; and he’s helping us win without Dwight.”
Harden’s triple-double on Monday was his second of the season as he tallied 31 points, 11 boards and 10 assists, becoming the first Houston player to record multiple triple-doubles since Steve Francis in the 2001-02 season.
The Rockets at 38-18 currently sit third in the Western Conference standings with 1.5 game lead on Portland.
Alex Del Barrio can be heard on Saturday afternoons on Sportsradio 610. Follow Alex Del Barrio on Twitter: @ADBSportsguy