Watch James Harden Play Awful Defense for Team USA vs. Turkey in FIBA World Cup

James Harden‘s defense is a popular subject of conversation among basketball fans.

It might be an even bigger topic if he showed a consistent effort on that end.

Last season, Harden was at times criticized for his lackluster defense, and rightfully so. The clip below illustrates how poorly Harden showed out on the defensive end.

Although the NBA is in the offseason, the FIBA World Cup began this weekend, and Harden’s trademark defense was back in classic form:

Perhaps it’s time for Harden to make good on his goal of becoming a better defender (via Bobby Gonzalez of Sheridan Hoops):

I spoke to several members of the USAB staff, and behind the scenes they were amazed at how good James Harden has become as an overall player since his last tour with Team USA two years ago. The fact that he came in and was focused on being a lockdown defender blew them away.

Based on what we’ve seen from Harden on a consistent basis, he’s still got a ways to go.

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James Harden and Kyrie Irving Have Shooting Competition at Team USA Practice

Team USA was preparing for its first FIBA World Cup matchup against Finland when Kyrie Irving and James Harden decided to engage in a friendly shooting competition.

Irving, a career 37.8 percent shooter from deep, barely edged out Harden, leading 5-4 at the end of the video. The competition wasn’t without a slight scoring controversy, however, as the two seemingly lost count of the score midway through the contest.

Team USA tips off against Finland at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

[YouTube, h/t Hoop Mixtape]

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James Harden Finds Rudy Gay for One-Handed Alley Oop vs. Finland

The United States aren’t having too much trouble in their 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup matchup against Finland, as they continue to make big plays like this one.

In the first quarter, James Harden found Rudy Gay for the one-handed alley-oop slam dunk. Team USA led 31-16 after the first quarter.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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James Harden says Kobe Bryant has “been working,” expects to see “20-year-old Kobe” next season

On October 28, the Los Angeles Lakers will begin the 2014-15 season with a much anticipated matchup with the Houston Rockets. While there are intriguing storylines surrounding the game involving Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant will obviously be the big draw for a couple of reasons. For one, it will be the first time that Kobe has faced off against Dwight since he left town last summer, though, more importantly, it will be the return of the Black Mamba to the basketball court.
After appearing in just six games last season, the basketball world is anxious to see Bryant back on the court, and if Harden’s assessment of the five-time champion’s current form is anything to go by, fans of the purple and gold should be very excited.
“I know he’s been working. We’ve talked a few times and he’s ready. He’s 20-year-old Kobe,” Harden said in an interview with ThePostGame. “So, it should be a crazy environment. I’m ready for the upcoming season, it should be a good one.”
20-year-old Kobe

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James Harden Expects to See a ’20-Year-Old’ Kobe Bryant on the Court This Season

Everybody is curious to see how Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant plays this season after he has missed parts of the last two seasons with serious leg injuries. The Houston Rockets’ James Harden firmly believes that the Black Mamba will be ready to play when he steps onto the court.

The Lakers and the Rockets open the 2014-15 season against each other on Oct. 28 at the Staples Center. There is no doubt that all eyes will be on Bryant that night.

[ThePostGame, h/t LakersNation]

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Jerry Colangelo Calls James Harden the Leader of Team USA

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo was just answering a question, but in the process he may have given this team both guidance and a slick slogan.

Don’t fear the beardfollow it.

Those are my words, not his, but what he actually said about starting swingman James Harden wasn’t too much different.

Colangelo, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post, said he wants Harden to lead this team and feels he has the tools for the task:

Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader. Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.

… I don’t know if he’s been waiting [to lead]. It’s evolved. He came in as a pretty high draft pick. Got off to a great start in Oklahoma City. Whether he was disappointed or surprised by what transpired, he found himself in another uniform and that’s part of life in pro sports and the NBA, and I think he’s adjusted to that and his numbers get bigger and he’s being recognized more and more as the player he is. And this is a great platform for him to come out as a leader.

In some ways, Harden would be an obvious choice.

He is the only player on the roster to have earned All-NBA first-team honors last season. Harden is also one of the two players left from the 2012 Olympic gold medalists, along with Anthony Davis.

Then again, Colangelo may have had to put some thought into this. There are areas that could have given him some hesitations about handing over the keys to the bearded baller.

“Harden is only 25 years old, and he has only been a starter in the NBA for the past two seasons,” noted CBS Sports’ James Herbert. “He’s not known as a big rah-rah guy, and his lackadaisical defense has attracted so much attention over the past few months that his offensive brilliance has become underrated.”

Add Harden’s foot-in-mouth comments from earlier this summer—he called himself and Dwight Howard the Houston Rockets “cornerstones” and dubbed the rest of his teammates “role players or pieces that complete our team,” via Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star—and he might seem as more of an awkward choice than an obvious one.

However, this call may have been made for Colangelo.

This team was supposed to be following the leads of Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, but both withdrew from the roster earlier this summer. Paul George’s two-way play might have put him in the running for a leadership role had a gruesome leg break not ended his run.

Frankly, there weren’t any conspicuous leadership candidates left. Anthony Davis is 21 with two years of NBA service on his resume. Derrick Rose is a major question mark after losing all but 10 games to knee injuries the past two seasons. Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry have shown some of the same defensive deficiencies as Harden.

Not to mention that Harden’s defense has looked significantly better on Team USA’s game film than it did on a certain viral video that pushed his problems under the spotlight. He looks more engaged now, and he says there’s a reason for that.

“First of all, you got the top players in the world on your team, so if you’re not focused and locked in on defense, they are going to embarrass you,” Harden said, via Lee. “I think our coach has done a phenomenal job of making sure we’re keyed in.”

If he can add defense and leadership to his already versatile skill set, he could serve as a reminder of the positive changes that can come out of this experience.


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James Harden Gives 4 Foot Locker Shoppers a Fresh Start by Buying Them Gear

While in New York City with Team USA, Houston Rockets star James Harden surprised some Foot Locker shoppers by buying them gear. All the shoppers had to do was tell Harden why they deserved a “fresh start.”

Sometimes people just need to start over after an embarrassing moment. That’s why Harden was there to help the shoppers get a new look to help them move on from those bad times.

It may have been tough for the shoppers to admit their most embarrassing moments to an NBA All-Star, but they were rewarded with free gear. That seems like a pretty good trade. 

[Foot Locker, h/t Sole Collector and Next Impulse Sports]

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Where Does James Harden Actually Rank on NBA Superstar Totem Pole?

James Harden is a superstar.

Hem and haw over his status as some might, it’s the truth. Perception of where he stands is helped along by playing a position (shooting guard) that’s thirsty for young, dominant talent as Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant age, but he’s not the beneficiary of loose-cannon interpretation. 

Might he be a bit too sure of himself? It certainly seems that way.

“Myself,” Harden told’s Scoop Jackson when asked who was the best basketball player alive.

He’s kidding, right? 

Apparently not.

​”I’m the best all-around basketball player in the NBA,” Harden would later say during a promotional interview for NBA 2K15 (via Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver). ”Steph Curry would probably be the best shooter, pure shooter in the NBA. [Durant] would probably be the best scorer in the NBA. Anthony Davis probably would be the best shot-blocker in the NBA.”

That last part of his reflection is important. He also recognized Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis for some of what they do, so this wasn’t a Harden-loving-Harden party. But yes, he did call himself the NBA’s best all-around player.

And of course he did. Professional basketball players aren’t typically shy; superstars aren’t usually coy personified. It takes confidence to reach this level. LeBron James would probably say the same thing (though it would be true). So, too, might Carmelo Anthony. Derrick Rose said something along similar lines last summer.

Take this, then, not as Harden trying to lord over everyone else, but as a sign that he fancies himself a superstar. Because that’s what he is.


Offensive Onslaughts

Talented scorers and playmakers aren’t hard to come by in the NBA, but Harden is one of the absolute best. 

Since making the jump from glorified role player with the Oklahoma City Thunder to franchise cornerstone with the Houston Rockets, Harden has averaged 25.7 points and six assists per game while shooting 44.6 percent from the floor overall, including 36.7 percent from deep.

Only one other player has averaged per-game benchmarks of 25 points and six assists while shooting at least 44 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three since over the past two season: LeBron James. Harden, moreover, made history last season by becoming the first player under 25 to average 25 points and six assists per game while shooting at least 45 percent overall and 36 percent from deep.

There is no diminishing his value on the offensive end. His shot selection can be questionable, and he struggles to adequately adjust his scoring approach when teams throw a zone defense at him, but he’s an offensive stud. 

The Rockets were 7.1 points per 100 possessions better on the offensive end when he played last season, according to Their pace was faster. Their overall field-goal percentage was higher. Few other players bring what he does to the floor.

Very few.

Over the last two years, only two players have amassed more offensive win shares: Kevin Durant and James. That’s it. Harden (20) has more than Chris Paul (19.6), Stephen Curry (17.7), Carmelo Anthony (15.7), Blake Griffin (14.9) and many more. Even when accounting for Paul missing 20 games last season, the company Harden rules over is one weighted with legitimate superstars. 

Although he may always have his offensive warts—shot selection, for instance—there are but a small handful of players who can call Harden a peer on that end of the court.


Round-the-Clock Stigmas

That Harden’s placement—or even membership—within the NBA’s superstar hierarchy is so readily debated speaks to his subtly polarizing on- and off-court personas.

Topping his list of flaws remains defensive awareness. He can be a sieve for long stretches at a time, as well as a hotbed of disinterest, like Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal pointed out after a lengthy film and statistical study: 

Believe it or not, Harden’s defensive numbers aren’t awful, largely because he picks when he wants to record them. He’s a fairly decent on-ball defender when he decides he actually wants to exert energy on the less glamorous end of the court. But he’s also remarkably prone to falling asleep when defending. And given the amount of time he spends stationary and disengaged, staring only at the ball as though he’s hypnotized, I sometimes wonder if I mean that literally.

Harden’s 107 defensive rating ranks as the sixth-worst among those whose player efficiency ratings exceeded 20 last season. He also became just the second player in NBA history to log more than 43 minutes a night through at least six playoff games while exiting with a defensive rating above 114.

It’s a mixed bag of unsettling. Players who are relied on that heavily when it matters most aren’t supposed to be that much of a liability, even if only on one end of the floor.

But Harden was. He is. And for the duration of Houston’s 2014 postseason run, he was a detriment on both ends, defending haphazardly, shooting himself into the basement.

When the Portland Trail Blazers officially showed Houston the door, Harden joined Stephen Marbury as the second player in playoff history to attempt at least 130 shots through six games without shooting better than 40 percent from the floor. 

His 2013 playoff campaign wasn’t much better, either. He hoisted 115 shots through six games while once again failing to eclipse 40 percent shooting.

All told, his postseason stints haven’t been pretty in Houston. He still lacks that trademark performance—the one that, perhaps irrationally, justifies his transition from Oklahoma City’s sixth man to Houston’s top gun. 

Not helping matters are the comments he’s made since, the ones that seemingly devalue Chandler Parsons and role players everywhere.

“Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets,” Harden told Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star. “The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”

Snap judgments can be made, but Harden’s thoughts are rather harmless and, at their core, likely not as dismissive and demeaning as they sound. But they still shine additional light on a Rockets team that doesn’t need any more attention. More importantly, they call his leadership qualities—or lack thereof—into question.

And so Harden must find it with himself to improve any way he can—on defense, in the playoffs, as a leader. For all he’s done, Harden, like Red94′s Rahat Huq details, has left everyone waiting for a better version of himself:

We’ve been focusing on the personnel game for some years now. But player transformation has been the traditional path to success. Hakeem finding inner peace and trust in his teammates. Lebron reinventing his game. Harden can be the second best player in this conference. If he puts in work on the defensive end, he will be.

Making the next jump—that which allows him to leave behind his regularly recited blisters—demands Harden do more. It dictates his game reflect the completeness he himself sees.

Until it does, his place among the league’s best will remain fairly high, yet fall markedly short of its ceiling.


Finding His Place

There are qualms to be had with Harden, wars of words to be waged, statistical struggles to highlight.

But like it always has, the great continues to outweigh the bad, the good trumps the questionable, his potential thumps the status quo.

Overrated and overhyped talents don’t consistently put up the numbers he does. They don’t mean as much to their teams as he does. 

This past season marks the second straight year Harden finished in the top five of total win shares. That he’s done so while leaving marginal to negative imprints on the defensive end is impressive. That only James and Durant lay claim to the same feat is vindicating. Validating. Satisfying.


“Yeah. Definitely. I’m enjoying this,” Harden told Jackson. “Still trying to catch guys like LeBron, KD and Kobe. You know, just trying to catch those guys. That’s something I get to look forward to every single day to motivate me.”

Try as Harden will to catch James and Durant, he’s not there. Yet. But he is in the surrounding area, able to see them, able to chase them, able to look in his immediate vicinity and see only top-10 and -15 talents—peers he may soon leave behind. 


*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and unless otherwise cited. 

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Harden says he’s the best player in the world

Harden had no hesitation in his answer about the best basketball player alive.



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James Harden believes he’s the best player alive

It’s hardly surprising that an NBA player, who by virtue is one of the best basketball players on the planet by belonging to such an esteemed fraternity of professionals, would have a large if not inflated ego. It would be difficult to reach such heights in any chosen profession without a deep and profound belief […] The post James Harden believes he’s the best basketball player alive right now appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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