In sports, the media and the public often fail to recognize greatness until it is gone. Only after a player retires do we take the time to reflect on their career and truly appreciate the great moments that occurred during their tenure with one or multiple franchises. This is why it is my obligation to make James Harden my NBA Player of the Week. To be fair, Harden could have been my player of the week for the past 2 weeks. The numbers he has been putting up throughout this stretch have been absolutely ridiculous. To put it in perspective, Harden’s current streak is at 24 consecutive 30+ point games is only matched now with Wilt Chamberlain’s records in the 1960’s. What make this stretch even more ridiculous is the lack of talent the Rockets’ roster currently has due to injuries. Most of last week Clint Capela and Chris Paul were out and Eric Gordon has missed a few games as well. Yet unlike other players, this set back has just pushed Harden to play at another level. Despite being the focus of most team defenses, he overcomes it scoring a ridiculous number of points from nearly everywhere on the court.
Another factor that people do not appreciate enough is that unlike a lot of other players in this league, Harden legitimately does not care about improving his already impressive stats. Instead, the reason why he is putting up these stats is that at this point of the season, the only way the Rockets can win is if Harden has monster games. A perfect example was against the Knicks last week. In this game Harden scored an impressive 61 points, 15 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 assists. In most situations, if a player scores that many points against the mediocre Knicks, the game would be a blow-out. Yet despite this ridiculous game by The Beard, the Rockets only ended up winning that game by four points. This means that they needed every single one of those points to defeat a Knicks team that has lost 11 in a row. And honestly beside Harden, the only other healthy player that can create their own offense is Eric Gordon. The majority of the rest of the guys depend on Harden’s ability to space the floor, allowing for wide-open 3-point shots.
The Beard also had another impressive win against the Orlando Magic where he simply had whatever he wanted offensively- scoring 40 points on 50% FG. It was also a game that had Chris Paul return to the team which helped Harden not have to carry as much of the offensive load. The last game I want to focus on was against Toronto. Here, Harden scored 35 points, but what really impressed me was his play in the 4th quarter. He scored 11 points essentially securing the Rockets’ win. And on the last play of the game, it was Harden (who is not known for his defense) that forced an air ball from Kawhi Leonard on the last play of the game. The team’s only loss this past week actually came at the hand of 76ers, but that was due to the fact that the Rockets were without Capela- meaning they had no one competent enough to guard Joel Embiid.
It is easy to undermine Harden’s achievements as him “abusing the rules”, by complaining about the lack of defense, or by citing his lackluster playoff performances. While these are fair complaints, the fact is that right now Harden is on one of the best scoring runs in recent NBA history. There will be a time and place to critique his game, but for now, let’s just sit back and enjoy the greatness of James Harden.