Harden Still Hot, Pops Hawks For Career-High 45




ATLANTA – Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale is doing his best not to feed the hype where James Harden is concerned. Really, he’s trying not to read too much into the numbers Harden has put up through two games in a Rockets uniform.

It would help if Harden wasn’t on pace to win a scoring title, MVP honors and lead the Rockets into the playoffs.

Laugh if you want, but Harden’s stock is soaring this week. The unstoppable former Sixth Man supreme in Oklahoma City has turned into a defender’s worst nightmare since being traded to Houston last weekend.

Harden is basically unstoppable, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound lefty who can do it all — score, handle, pass and even defend — while also showing the unique ability to step from the shadows, so to speak, and into the spotlight without blinking.

He topped his 37-point, 12-assist, 6-rebound, 4-steal debut in a win over Detroit with an even more jaw-dropping and career-high 45-point, 7-rebound, 2-steal showcase in a 109-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at Philips Arena.

“I hope [he does], but I doubt he’s going to average 37, 12 and whatever,” McHale joked before Harden unleashed on the Hawks, who tried everything but simply had no answer for a player capable of beating you from every angle.

Harden’s season stats after two games — 41 PPG, 63.6% FG, 87% FT, 42.9% 3PT, 6.5 RB, 7 AS, 2ST, 4.5 TO, 2.5 PF — say it all.

His 82 combined points are the most by a non-rookie in his first two games with a new team in league history. And he joins Wilt Chamberlain (106 in 1962-63, 105 in 1961-62 and 86 in 1965-55) and Michael Jordan (91 in 1986-87) on the list of the top five scoring starts through two games in league history.

Harden’s doing this in roughly six more minutes per game than he played in last season, when he took home Kia Sixth Man of the Year honors and helped the Thunder reach The Finals. If he keeps this up, he’ll be in the running for some other Kia-sponsored hardware, along with a spot as a player/host during All-Star Weekend in Houston in February.

These first two games have been the ideal platform for Harden to show off the fact that he’s got the chops to be a headliner and not just a candidate for best supporting actor.

“I was just trying to make plays,” Harden said after torching the Hawks. “My teammates were looking for me, and I just was able to score the basketball. But it wasn’t just me. Chandler (Parsons) hit a big three, and Jeremy (Lin) hit a big three, so guys were stepping up at big times.”

No one is happier to see Harden in a Rockets uniform than Lin, who stroked the Hawks for 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists of his own. Lin doesn’t have to worry about being the face of the franchise hand the pressure that come with that distinction as long as Harden keeps doing what he’s doing.

“I always felt for Jeremy, it’s so hard to live up to the Linsanity hype and all of that,” McHale said. “Jeremy’s a very good basketball player. James allows him to go out there and do just that, be a very good basketball player. And together, they can be really good together. When we made that trade, though, the guy who was happiest about it and was calling up everybody to make sure we were going to do it was Jeremy Lin.”

Harden has embraced the spotlight that comes with his new role.

“It is different,” he said. “It’s a lot different having the entire offense run through you. But that’s my job now, and I accept that.”

He’s been a model teammate, too, according to McHale. But he’ll have to continue to adjust to the increased attention. He’s no longer the third bullet point on the opposing team’s scouting report, like he was in Oklahoma City. And with that No.1 spot comes added attention that require Harden’s undivided attention.

“He’s going to have nights where he’s gonna draw two [defenders] and is just going to have to make the easy plays and play out of it,” McHale said, “because three guys cannot guard four guys behind you. I told him, you’re probably going to see more of that than ever before. Don’t let it frustrate you and keep making those plays. You do it enough and he’ll get back to those opportunities where he gets to play one-on-one.”

After seeing Harden the past eight quarters, those numbers don’t really seem to matter … at least not to Harden!

 

73 Comments

  1. SLEEPLESS IN MILWAUKEE says:

    dont you feel stupid oklahoma paying ibaka before harden. was it worth it

  2. Bird33 says:

    I’m so glad two people I really respect found each other in Houston – a great and humble coach (my old buddy #32) and a very humble and hard workin’ James Harden. I’m not sure you could find two more deserving guys in the NBA to have this great start. I hope they have a hell of a year !!

    PS – hey Miami “superstars” – this is what a little humility gets you – i.e. a die hard Celtic fan that is actually rooting for another team on the side BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT A BUNCH OF ARROGANT LITTLE PRI_ _ S LIKE SOME PEOPLE IN SOUTH BEACH!!!!

  3. Felz says:

    Jeremy Lin #7 + James Harden #13 = 713 (Houstons Area Code) …………….better nickname than Beardsanity

    Been a die Hard Rockets Fan thru it all…glad to see we finally gettin some props

  4. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    Harden about to be the MVP of the league, he came BALLIN, wait is he averageing Wilt numbers?

  5. Amused says:

    As a Rockets fan and a resident of Houston, I am totally thrilled by what Harden and Lin are doing. But now, I think it is also time to give props to Mr. Daryl Morey, who has been vilified, rebuked, mocked, and ridiculed by Houston sports media and Rockets fans for years. Can anyone honestly say now that we missed out on Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, or Carmelo Anthony?? How would any of those guys have been better than the younger, more versatile, more well-rounded, and ultra-talented James Harden??

  6. Kevin_j says:

    I’m so happy i don’t have any Laker on my fantasy team! and i so smart for buying Harden! more than 110 fantasy points in a span of 48 hours, by the way i’m on this cool and FREE NBA fantasy website http://www.thefanba.com i recommend everyone to join, it’s really cool!

  7. Bcarl says:

    Okc is going to be regretting this deal for years to come. Harden is a basketball player, Westbrook is an elite athlete. When westbrooks athleticism starts to decline, harden will still be a pure basketball player. KD and harden could of played off of eachother much like MJ and Pippen did. Bad move okc you traded the wrong guy

  8. Liam says:

    Hard to lame Harden when you throw in the fact that he get $27M more with Houston, DOESN’T HAVE TO PAY INCOME TAX to the state of Texas and teaming up with Jeremy Lin. Also I think he’s a better fundamental basketball player who have the natural scoring ability than Russell Westbrook who is flashier but make too many turnover that could prove costly to the OKC dream of championship.

  9. Lucas says:

    I’m happy for Harden. He was my fav player for OKC, and now he’s really proving himself.
    I’m not saying he’s gonna be dropping 45 every night, but he’s going to be an all star player.

  10. KD says:

    Buddy, I think you’re gonna take the scoring title from me this year!

    KD

  11. DontEVERClickHis name says:

    DAVID WEST SHOULD BE A GOOD ADDITION NEXT YEAR!

  12. DontEVERClickHis name says:

    He will be the new TMAC, then all the rockets would need is a another star, ideally at powerforward and im sure they could contend for west champs…

  13. NbaGuy123 says:

    A SuperStar is being born right in front of our eyes. This guy has the potential to be great, and I’m not just saying it because of the numbers he put up these last two games. James Harden needed this opportunity, now he can showcase his talents. Get it done BEARDSANITY!

  14. Kamote says:

    now players would consider playing with houston. harden deserves his pay, lin is legit. 8o game to go though, still has to go through the defenses of the likes of Miami, SA and Boston. We all know the team will have its ups and downs. Its just good to know that Lin and Harden plays well together. The Rockets now has a future.

  15. W/E says:

    still cant believe that OKC traded their best all around player who has so much potential…

  16. Kingk says:

    Bearded linsanity…. Lol whoever said that but i like lin and harden (even though I’m a heat fan) and really want to see them florish in houston. Anyone knows when they play okc?

  17. ClutchFTW says:

    BEARD-SANITY!!! Wow. This rap video for Harden=Lin is hilarious and amazing! :)

    • Rockets Seeing Red says:

      LOL, I already have an Insane Beard I just trimmed a little a few weeks ago but Im bout to overgrow it now… Wow I knew this was a good trade but I didn’t know how much, Can’t wait till the game against Portland tonight!

      Beard Sanity!!!

  18. Nathan says:

    LOOK AT THE TURNOVERS THOUGH!

  19. patrick10 says:

    beardsanity! 3 more games like this he will be a legit super star…

  20. Game Time says:

    I’m going to stand corrected about this guy. I wrote him off the other day as doing well against a bad defensive team. I think OKC kinda made a mistake losing him, but at the same time there was no way for him to flourish with Durant and Westbrook on the team. The trade was a good thing for the league because we can see a star being born on a team that really needs it. GOOD JOB HARDEN!

  21. Ed says:

    James Harden is pure talent and OKC couldn’t benefit fully from it due to their two superstars in Durant and Westbrook. I’m not saying OKC used Harden the wrong way, just that their superstars limited Harden’s type of play which he now can fully use in Houston. Houston is built with that dynamic, athletic and quick back-court and with those youngsters inside the paint and Asik och the P&R, Lin will be zerging when they try to double-team James Harden. I’ll enjoy watching Houston this year, hopefully they will become strong contenders in a year or two after picking up some nice FA-pieces/trades/picks

  22. Mikey says:

    Now all the Rockets need are decent backcourt reserves. Lin and Harden can’t do it all.

  23. catalins14 says:

    I’m a big fan on OKC! And I dont undestand how stupid OKC staf can be, you had the oportunity to keep him for one more year, win the NBA title and after deal with the salary problem, this way the lost the best player in the NBA in the first 2 games, and for watt? 2 low level player and some future picks? Las year Harden won a lot of game for OKC, this is a player that you dont send away, you keep! Stupid stupid stupid

    • Average Joe says:

      I’m pretty sure Sam Presti got something in mind when the deal went down. But if you OKC fans don’t like the results of his, uh, “tinkering”, then call for his head.

  24. Bruno says:

    HARDSANITY!!

  25. mark says:

    I never bought into why people were saying he was being greedy, because he wouldn’t take the 53-54 million dollar contract. He was a number 3 pick behind Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet (not a legit number 2) and deserved a chance to start and be a leader. Michael Jordan was a number 3 pick behind Olajuwon and Sam Bowie ( not a legit number 2), so maybe Harden thought he could be the next Jordan. I’m not saying he is, but he deserves the opportunity to find out. I was saying all this to my co-workers before the season started, not knowing Harden would be this good in his first two games with the Rockets. We will see this season and the ones to come whether he deserves more comparisons to Jordan.

  26. Mohcel says:

    One more good PF for Houston. They will be a NBA Powerhouse for seasons to come.

    • mark says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I’m sure free agent-to-be Josh Smith noticed what happened to himself (despite his decent numbers) and his Atlanta Hawks and will be ready to sign a max contract with Houston (they have the cap space) this Summer.

      • Average Joe says:

        I was thinking more on the line of Al Horford. He’s a better rebounder and he has a decent mid-range and post game. Josh Smith may be more athletic but Horford is steadier and will anchor the defense better with Asik than J-Smoove. I think Al can join Houston next season. Someone please enlighten me on this.

      • mark says:

        Horford won’t be a free agent until the Summer of 2016. Both David West and Josh Smith are unrestricted free agents this Summer. The following Summer, Houston’s payrol increses for Asik and Lin by a combined $20 million, so their only chance at another max player is this Summer. Houston doesn’t want to do more major trades at this time, because they need the low value contracts of their current rookies to be role players for the future.

  27. believer21 says:

    Fear the beard + Linsanity unstoppable!! Go Rockets!!!

  28. BH says:

    Still think that the rockets got the worse out of the trade? He’s playing excellent, my rockets are clicking on all cilinders and that’s great

  29. Michal says:

    He is a STAR player, not Sixht Man anymore.

  30. Chester says:

    hes a great player no doubt, but wait to the scouting reports come in, harden wears down from playing against starters every game, the losses mount up, the pressure hits him that it will be on him every game. plus for gods sake its two games out of 82. anything can happen, he could get injured…you just dont know
    dont get me wrong, i see him averaging more like 20-22 ppg once the dust settles with a much lower fg%

  31. NumberEightySeven says:

    He’s playing on another level right now. Amazing! A budding All-Star for sure!

  32. darius says:

    HE is just spectacular. I am happy for Harden to come out of OKC. He deserves the spotlight as his talents should not be hidden from Durant and Westbrook. All the more I am happy for Lin. I have been a huge fan of Lin and having Harden help him in a monumental manner would give Lin the boost to focus more on the ball and create opportunities for everyone. Look out for Houston, when everyone matures like Harden. They’ll be a tough team to beat. My hats off to Houston, Harden and the gang!

  33. AsianProspectFor2016 says:

    I hope Jeremy Lin starts putting up crazy numbers like this as well. Now that would be Linsane.

    BEARDED LINSANITY!!

  34. Pao says:

    i never overrayed him, picked him 2nd round in my fantasy

  35. Bob says:

    After torching the not so stellar defenses of Detroit and ATL, we are ready to place the bearded one with Wilt and Jordan. I love Harden’s game and believe he will do well, but he’s two games in, 80 more to go. Stop the hype!! This is a professional sport, not celebrity TV

    • Jeff says:

      I am sure Harden will have a VERY good year and put up GREAT numbers…. But you’re fully right… He has 80 games to go and hasn’t played against a real defense and a defense that is aiming for him. It’s all gonna come down to how well harden and lin can manage the ball when the defense collapses on harden. Will lin and the rest of the guys be able to step up and force the D to give harden some space?

    • Average Joe says:

      Did you read the article, the part about the basis for comparison? They’re basing their comparison on a guy’s scoring stats on the first two games of the season. Wilt did it three times, scoring 106, 105 and 86, while Jordan got 91 one time. And Harden’s 82 points were the most points scored by a non-rookie playing for a new team. So it’s not actually comparing their careers, just these first two games. And the Hawks D is not a real defense? GTFOH! I’m not buying into this hype as much as the next guy but give the guy some credit for scoring 45 points against one of the better defenses in the league.

  36. princess says:

    now you see what harden can give any team.

  37. Ron Jon says:

    Wow too bad okc damg

  38. Be The Miracle says:

    I think i speak for all us OKC fans when i say we are very proud of you harden! keep it up buddy!

  39. superstar says:

    James Harden , mid-season get use to hearing ” MVP MVP MVP “

  40. NBA 2013 says:

    OKC Bigest Mistake – Traded Harden . forget the future round picks , its about getting the championship trophy this year…. they should of keep JH and make him a starter . o well too late , okc will regret it

  41. Brandon says:

    Harden really give us a good show which silent all the hater. Rocket rock’s..!!

  42. Northpole says:

    I am a big James Harden fan, but damn , i saw at least 5 calls yesterday that were clearly looking like a flopp. He s def. a candidate for the first victim of the new flopping rule when Manu ist out,lol…

  43. I never underrated Harden…so I was pretty much expecting this to happen…I actually guessed he would average minimum 25 points per game so he’s on the right track… and I always thought he was a better player than Westbrook which he’ll have a chance to prove now that he’s a Rocket

    • bullsfan0218 says:

      Totally agree, hes a much better ball handler, decision maker, and distributor than westbrook. Westbrook is a very good player and definitely more explosive but he makes some very boneheaded plays and a lot of the time hes the only one that touches the ball on a posession and ends up with a missed jumper.

  44. Armin Halvadzic says:

    poor OKC fans.

  45. idlazir says:

    great job…

  46. s says:

    80M DOLLARS REPAID!

  47. idlazir says:

    He’s the man that compliment to the type of game Jeremy has… I have switched fav team when jeremy went to Houston… A fun game to watch & follow… Hoping to see Houston playing again in the playoff…

  48. allaroundballer says:

    I like OKC, and the way they develop their own draft players. But somehow Im not westbrook fans. Now It feels right

  49. kaygee says:

    NO NEED OF KD OR WB.. TOOO WAY TOOO TOOO BAD FOR MY OKC.. WOW! OOOHHH WOW!!!!

  50. AnnoYouLater says:

    i dont know why some people is dissing Harden for taking the 80mil deal from HOU and rejecting the 53 mil from OKC…he’s playing basketball as his profession its not just for fun or a hobby…ofc money matters and obviously HOU has bigger plans for him…and i think its a good thing he went to HOU cuz now he get to start and fully showcase his talents which he already doing from his two previous games…

  51. Donn says:

    I am a big OKC fan and I feel sad when Harden leaves. Pure talent.. the BEARD MAN!

  52. amitpal says:

    I would like to apologize to Mr. Harden. When he was traded I said he was a little overrated and that he wouldnt do as good as everyone thought he would. Instead he was underrated. I’m not saying hes going to continue averaging 41 points but he is going to have an mvp type number season.

  53. Jen says:

    Congratulations, James! I’m so happy you get your chance to shine and that you get to play with unselfish players like Jeremy Lin. I wish you, Jeremy Lin, and the Rockets organization all the best!

  54. Ben says:

    Fear the Beard!

  55. Just1Fan says:

    That kid, Harden, earns his money the old fashion way… HE EARNS IT!

    • White Mamba says:

      Lin will be the happiest being with Harden playing… Opponents will have a tough time guarding both backcourt players at the same time. This will it both contributed to either Lin or Harden, since Lin has been the target ever since he got traded to the Rockets… well not for long with Harden.

    • Aventura says:

      If he were in the starting line up last season, OKC could beat Miami in finals. He does not play as selfish as Westbrook and he does not make silly plays in last minutes of the games. I am a Miami Heat fan.. :)

    • john says:

      are you jalous