BLOGTABLE: Can Rockets win title with Harden's style of play?
NBA.com Global on Feb 07, 2019 08:36 AM
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 19: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celebrates after the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 19, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
In terms of winning a championship, Kobe Bryant says he’s “not a fan” of James Harden and the Houston Rockets’ style. What say you?
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Steve Aschburner: I’m no fan, either. Now before we dive into this topic, let’s note that James Harden is averaging eight assists per game and Kobe Bryant, in his illustrious career, never averaged more than 6.3 apg. Harden only once before this season averaged as many as 20 field-goal attempts per game, compared to Bryant’s 13 such seasons. Just to keep the ball-hogging, er, ball- dominating in perspective. Given all that, though, Harden does in 15-20 dribbles what Bryant did in 3-4, and in this three-point-centric era, he has teammates more obviously standing on the perimeter doing little. The energy he expends may catch up to him in May and the capability of a good team to lock in on him over four to seven games should worry Houston fans, too.
Shaun Powell: I second that emotion (although, imagine this coming from Kobe of all people). While I respect James Harden's ability to score, the iso-ball is a complete turnoff and hasn't gotten him or the Rockets anywhere. Now, to be fair, Kobe did say Harden had no choice, given the absence of Chris Paul for a stretch. He had to flip Houston's season in the right direction. But from here, if Harden is routinely going one-on-one, it'll be another May exit for Houston.
John Schuhmann: Harden wouldn't be playing like he is if the Rockets had a strong enough supporting cast to compete for a championship. The departure of Trevor Ariza, injuries, and the Rockets' defensive regression -- they've seen the league's biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions (6.6) from last season -- have obviously forced him to carry more of an offensive burden. Harden is a brilliant pick-and-roll passer when defenses don't switch and when he has a full set of complementary players around him. Circumstances have forced him to play more like 2005-06 Kobe Bryant than like '05-06 Steve Nash.
Sekou Smith: Kobe is speaking from experience in this matter and his words should be embraced by James Harden and the Rockets. With the way their season ended a year ago (in Game 7 at home in the Western Conference finals without Chris Paul), the Rockets shouldn't need confirmation from Kobe Bryant for something they already knew. The one-man-band routine works beautifully in the pursuit of individual honors and for climbing the charts in the NBA record book. Winning championships, however, in this era, requires a group effort. The Warriors have proven it repeatedly, at the expense of challengers like Harden's Rockets. Having a roster as healthy as possible in May is the key for the Rockets.