Rip James Harden all you want.
But he’s already exactly who he needs to be.
That was the message Wednesday from Jason Terry, one of Harden’s Rockets teammates and now the host of “The Runway” Wednesdays on Sirius XM NBA Radio. Terry told The Triple Threat on SportsRadio 610, Harden doesn’t need to make major changes to his game.
“James is doing his job man,” he said. “Look at the stats he put up. It’s a travesty that he wasn’t on (any of the three) All NBA Teams.”
While the Rockets went from Western Conference finalist to one-and-done in the playoffs this year, Harden’s production remained elite.
Harden averaged 29.0 points, 7.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game, about the same on paper as what Steph Curry did en route to becoming the NBA’s first-ever unanimous MVP: 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Yet, Harden was edged on the All-NBA first, second and third teams by, among others, Kyle Lowry.
“Just utter disappointment,” Terry said. “They need to re-do how they make those selections.”
As for the criticism of Harden’s defense — because there’s never been a Harden Defense Vine the Internet didn’t love! — Terry says it’s woefully overstated.
“I can show you as many James Harden clips of a guy going back door on him as I can show you Steph Curry clips where he quits on a play or a guy just blows right by him.”
As is often the case, the truth is likely somewhere in between. While Harden has had lapses in focus on the defensive end, that’s no different than any other player in the league — star, starter or substitute.
Also, consider Harden’s work load. Over the last two seasons, Harden led the NBA in minutes played with 6,106, about 300 minutes more than Andrew Wiggins, who was in his first and second pro seasons. Fresh legs. Harden also played all but one game, when he was suspended last season.
When you consider the styles of play that the Rockets (I’ve called them “the Chip Kelly offense of the NBA”) and Harden (drives to the rim, takes hard foul, shoots free throws) employ, it makes you wonder — he does have to get rest at some point, doesn’t he?
More pertinent is probably what Harden is doing off the floor. To put it one way, when Terez Owens says you’re “crushing the offseason,” you’re probably not really “crushing the offseason.” Things we learned over the course of this season.
This season, the Rockets first under new head coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden needs to just keep doing what he’s been doing, Terry said.
“Hey, the last time I checked, you’re getting paid to fill the ball up and get a lot of assists. That’s what you’re getting paid to do. You’ve got other guys out there who are supposedly defensive stoppers. Let them handle the dirty work of guarding.”
Matt Hammond hosts Saturdays on SportsRadio 610 and fill ins during the week. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow.