Rockets Harden and Ariza visit Julius Randle in the hospital

This is something that you don’t see too often. Last night Lakers rookie Julius Randle broke his tibia in the game against the Houston Rockets. Randle was expected to have surgery this morning, but before the surgery even happened, the rookie received an unexpected visit from James Harden and Trevor Ariza to show some support. This was actually a pretty cool gesture. Randle is only 19-years old, so it has to be tough on him to get seriously injured during his very first regular season game. Randle was reportedly very appreciative that the Harden and Ariza took time out of their schedules to visit him. [h/t TMZ]

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KD, Harden star in awesome new NBA-BBVA ad

The Madrid-based bank has a long-running partnership that it extends for branding purposes.

      
 

 

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Harden helps Rockets beat Spurs 96-87 in preseason (Yahoo Sports)

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celerates after a three-point shot during their preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center on October 24, 2014 in Houston, Texas (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets finished off the preseason with a solid defensive effort against the San Antonio Spurs. James Harden scored 25 points, and Houston used a big run before halftime to beat San Antonio 96-87 on Friday night. The Rockets held the Spurs to 41 percent shooting. They also forced 16 San Antonio turnovers, 13 in the first half.


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Breaking Down What Makes James Harden an Elite Offensive Player

James Harden of the Houston Rockets may be the most intriguing case study in the NBA. He’s easily one of the five most gifted offensive players in the league, yet all anyone talks about anymore is his defense. So, for this article, we’re not going to talk about those flaws. We’re going to discuss what makes Harden such a special player.

He’s able to score, he’s able do so efficiently and he involves his teammates while doing so. Those three things make him an elite offensive player. And by elite, I don’t just mean among his contemporaries. Harden is not just good—he’s historically good.

In his two years with Houston, he has averaged 25.7 points on a .609 true shooting percentage, adding 6.0 assists while doing so. Per Basketball-Reference.com, only three other players have had a season where they met those standards: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and LeBron James.

If advanced stats are more your thing, during both of his years in Houston, Harden had a usage percentage over 27, an assist percentage above 25 and a true shooting percentage over 60, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Only three other players have accomplished that feat twice: Jordan, Bird and James.

I don’t mean to overstate things here, but Jordan, Bird and James make up a pretty elite trio. He is not on their historical level yet, but what he’s accomplished suggests he could be.

So what makes Harden so special? The answer might surprise you: It’s his brain. Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland writes:

James Harden is one of the smartest on-court players in the NBA. Perhaps more than anyone else, he understands the rules of the game and has engineered an approach to scoring that takes full advantage of these rules.

It may not always be pretty (although sometimes it is), but it is almost always productive. Between his Eurostep and his incredible ability to get fouled, Harden might be a referee’s nightmare, but he’s also one of the best scorers in the league.

Based on his understanding of the game, there are three things in particular Harden does to build his impressive offensive resume: shoot from the right spots on the floor, draws fouls and find open teammates when he’s double-teamed.

 

Shooting From the Right Spots

Probably the most important factor in scoring efficiently isn’t whether you make the shots; it’s where you take them from. If you shoot closer to the rim, you are more likely to make them. If you take them from three, they are going to count for more. Ergo, the restricted area and behind the three-point line are the target areas.

Harden’s shot chart, available at NBA.com/STATS, shows how his shots are distributed.

Notice how the concentration is in those two critical high-efficiency areas.

Last year, there were 22 players who attempted at least 400 threes and 47 who took at least 300 shots inside the restricted area. There were only five players who did both. Here they are with a glossary [1] to explain the headers:

You might notice that these are some of the most effective scorers in the league. That’s not a coincidence. 

 

Drawing Fouls

Another area of the court where players can boost their efficiency is from the free-throw stripe. If Harden were a sketch artist, he could make a living just drawing fouls.

One of the better new analysis tools is “free-throw rate,” which shows how often a player draws a foul. This is devised from dividing the field-goal attempts by the free-throw attempts.

There’s a hitch to that, though, as some players are fouled intentionally because they are more efficient from the field than from the stripe. In those cases, the defense feels it has an advantage in fouling, so they do. [2]

However, if we add the free-throw percentage to the free-throw rate, it gives us “free-throw rating.” That gives us a good feel for who not only gets to the line but also who takes advantage of getting there.

Not surprisingly, Harden and Durant top this list. Kevin Love is seventh. Those are the only three on both lists.

When you combine these two things—shooting form the efficient places on the court and shooting well from the stripe—you get an efficient scorer. True shooting percentage adjusts for three-pointers and free throws.

Five players averaged 25 points: James, Harden, Durant, Love and Carmelo Anthony. Three of them had a true shooting percentage over .600: James, Durant and Harden. When you combine that degree of volume and efficiency, you get MVPs.

What’s more remarkable is that, according to 82games.com, he was just called for just 32 offensive fouls. His 665 free-throw attempts suggest he was fouled well over 320 times (which would incur 640-ish free throws). In other words, he draws about 10 fouls for every offensive foul.

Call it flopping. Call it star treatment. Call it words I can’t use on Bleacher Report. But Harden calls them points. And that’s a big part of why he’s such an effective scorer.

 

Passing the Ball

The last thing Harden does that makes him an elite offensive player is pass prudently. He’s not an elite passer on the level of Chris Paul. He’s not always looking to create points for his teammates. But he is smart enough to pass out of a double-team rather than force up a bad shot.

Taking efficient shots is one way to bolster your shooting percentages. Not taking stupid ones is another. This might seem obvious, but without getting critical of anyone in particular, let’s just say there are some noteworthy scorers in the NBA who haven’t learned this lesson.

Basketball is not diving or gymnastics; you don’t get extra points for degree of difficulty. It’s better to find the open teammate than to force a bad shot. Case in point:

And that’s not just an isolated case. When I worked with Adam Fromal to develop passer rating, one thing we looked at is which players raised their teammate’s field-goal percentage the most when they passed them the ball. We called that field-goal percentage impact.

Among non-point guards, Harden had the fifth-largest impact (behind Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Durant and James), raising his teammates’ field-goal percentage 3.62 percentage points.

Only two of those players, Durant and James, were also their team’s leading scorer.

Statistically, Harden establishes over and over that he is in the same company as Durant and James on offense.

 

***

There are three players who are among the best at all three of these areas: Harden, James and Durant. Two of them have won five of the last six MVPs. It’s not entirely unreasonable that Harden could have one of those in his future.

He’s not perfect on offense. He has too many passing turnovers (135 last year). He pressed too hard in last year’s postseason when he should have been trusting his teammates. I’m not trying to hide from that.

But remember, he just turned 25. These things (and defense) are lessons that players normally don’t learn until they’re in the second half of their 20s.

People say Harden has an old-man’s game. In the deliberate way he moves with the ball, that’s true. But in terms of where he shoots from, he’s much more of a modern-age man. And in terms of actual age, he’s a very young man.

If Harden’s game matures, he could blend those things together and become one of the most special players in history. He’s already posting numbers that are historically rare. When you consider that he’s already playing at such a high level and how much room he has to grow, it’s a scary combination.

 

 

[1] RAFG = Restricted Area Field Goal; RAFGA = Restricted Area Field-Goal Attempt; %ATT = Percent of Total Field Goal Attempts from efficient areas or (RAFGA+3PA)/FGA; EFG%EA = Effective Field-Goal Percentage on Attempts from Efficient Areas

[2] This is usually a bad strategy. In order for it to be effective, a player would have to have a higher field-goal percentage than free-throw percentage, otherwise, on average, you’re giving away points. 

 

Stats for this article come from Basketball-Reference.com, 82games.com, and NBA.com/STATS.

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Harden leads Rockets over Memphis as Howard sits (Yahoo Sports)

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 9: Ish Smith #5 of the Houston Rockets drives to the basket against the Memphis Grizzlies during the game on October 9, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 21 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 113-93 preseason victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.


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James Harden beats entire Internet in a game of horse

The ‘best beard in basketball’ beat the Internet in horse.

      
 

 

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Watchability: Are Harden and Howard enough?

James Harden and Dwight Howard remain the front men as the Rockets’ rhythm section changed.

      
 

 

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James Harden Admits His Defense Isn’t Very Good, Wants to Improve

Admitting that there is a problem is the first step. Houston Rockets star James Harden has done exactly that, so maybe there is hope for him after all. 

Harden is a great scorer, but he will have trouble working his way to superstardom until he improves his defense. NBA fans love to make fun of the Rockets guard’s “defensive skills.” In fact, there is an 11-minute video dedicated to his lack of defense.

At the Rockets’ media day on Monday, Harden admitted that his defense isn’t very good. Here’s what he said, per the Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Dial Creech:

Jonathan Feigen, also of the Chronicle, tweeted more quotes from Harden:

We will see just how committed Harden is to playing defense once the games get underway this season. The Rockets open the 2014-15 season at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 28. 

[Twitter, h/t That NBA Lottery Pick]

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Ironic James Harden defense lines included in 2K15

That’s rich. Let’s just say the words “James Harden” and “play good defense” should never be part of the same sentence. Well, unless the sentence is, “James Harden has never had one iota of inclination to ever play good defense, ever.” Then it would be alright. That is what makes the juxtaposition of the creators […] The post ‘NBA 2K15′ had James Harden talk about defense when recording audio (video) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Rockets’ James Harden Can’t Do the ‘Carlton Dance’

Houston Rockets star James Harden is really good at basketball, but he’s apparently not a very good dancer.

While hanging out with Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, the two did the “Carlton Dance”. Unfortunately, Harden struggled trying to do the dance.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, here is the original “Carlton Dance”.

[Instagram, h/t Black Sports Online]

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