Harden Show Can’t Be Solo Act

— So it turns out that you really do need more than one player on your team to win every night.

It was a point made in the early high-flying years of Michael Jordan and virtually every season of Wilt Chamberlain’s career, a couple of names that had been unexpectedly linked to James Harden after he dropped in 37 and 45 points in his first two games as a Rocket.

So when Harden looked more like the Russian space station Mir plummeting into the South Pacific, making just 8 of 24 shots in the home opener on Saturday night, it was a reminder that the blockbuster trade was just a start. There is still much work to be done in Houston.

For the Rockets to come close to their stated goal of challenging for a playoff spot in what suddenly looks like a very wide open Western Conference, The Beard’s teammates are going to have to make more than a whisker of a contribution, especially at crunch time. Even when Harden was struggling to shoot just 1-for-8, it was all about him.

For all the best-laid plans, this is not a team that is going far on a diet that exists strictly of pick-and-roll or 1-on-1. The Rockets need to run, play in the open court and move the ball to get the most from their green, unripened roster.

It was fun and high drama — and even the right strategy — to see Harden holding the ball out front, watching the clock tick down and preparing to challenge Portland’s Wesley Matthews with the score tied at the end of regulation. But having Harden in that spot and having the rest of the Rockets simply stand around and watch like the rest of the Toyota Center crowd was in reality putting him and them in their weakest position.

Harden’s best asset is his ability to see openings and plays and passes and possibilities on the move and reacting while the defense is still trying to figure out where he is. When he slows the game down and gives his opponents to set up and prepare, there is more a chance of something happening like the strip that Matthews made that sent the game in overtime, where the Blazers won.

Harden was simply worn out from his heroics of the first two nights of the schedule, bedraggled by the fourth quarter and even slowed more by a tweaked ankle and, of course, the Rockets were never going to go 82-0.

The first two blasts out of the starting gate and the national headlines they created were the most fun and attention created by the Rockets after three years of defining mediocrity. Harden untethered from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, will be a kick to watch all season. But not if his teammates do too much of it.


  1. ashey1 says:

    @ celtics1, if your post was sincere then bless you. The trouble you are going through is not something that can’t get better. Please reconsider.

  2. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    They need a post player to really go with Harden and Lin.

  3. Derrick Rose says:

    My knee is getting much better, see – does the stanky leg

  4. vamos a la playa says:

    fran just didn’t get one point: this team is NEW, needs time to glue together.
    the other guys are contribuiting but you just can’t ask for perfection right now.

  5. Andy says:

    Look, it’s true that Harden needs more help, but the truth is if you watched the games, he really wasn’t a “one man team”. Yes, he was scoring a lot, but he wasn’t taking that many shots. They have been playing terrific team basketball; not just giving Harden the ball and getting out of the way. Houston is still a few moves away from being a contender so right now they’ll have to rely on Harden a little more than they eventually want to, but I think that’s ok for now.

    • Bob says:

      I watched the game, there was little ball movement when the the ball is in his hand. (8-24 and 5 turnovers)

      Also the coach sub Lin and Harden back in the game too late.

  6. celtics1 says:

    am really frustrated now jumping offf the verrazano bridge. would miss you all lost everything to hurricane sandy

  7. celtics1 says:

    am really frustrated now jumping offf the verrazano bridge. would miss you all lost everything to hurrican sandy

  8. Stu says:

    I think as soon as Lin and Harden can trust each other they will produce some crazy results.

  9. mario says:

    Even if i dont trust a gm that pays Asik all this money n sends away Dragic Rockets can be relevent again. If they sign one more star (eg Josh Smith) n their rookies progress nicely they can be a top team.

  10. Tim says:

    Overall the game against the Blazers was closer than it should have been with the Rockets throwing up bricks from long range. Harden and Lin are coming together nicely for how little time they’ve had together. If they can stay healthy, they look like they’ll be an excellent 1-2 punch in the back-court for the next several years. Up front they are developing some weapons. Besides veteran wing Delfino, none of them have had more than 2 years experience prior to this season. 3rd year players Asik and Patterson are coming along nicely and have the most experience of their younger front-court guys. Parsons has had a slow start offensively, but surely will round into form. Morris has taken a step up from last season. Rookies Jones and Motiejunas are very talented. Maybe they should get some minutes. I think they both have more potential than Patterson has at PF. It’s a team built for the future, so developing the young guys should be a major priority. That said, a trip to the playoffs would be a great experience for such a young team. Too much development time for rookies could cost them a playoff spot. McHale has a lot of tough decisions ahead of him.

    Harden’s first 2 games were exciting, but it’s a long season. Comparing him to Jordan and Chamberlain is very premature. The guys who have the big games early in the season always get over-hyped, and they almost always come back down to Earth, unless they are legendary players like Jordan and Chamberlain. I don’t see him as the next legend, but I expect him to continue to play like an all-star this season, and barring major injuries, his team should be in playoff contention.

  11. D Lion says:

    So the Rockets go from being a team with no direction to a team that is overly dominated by one player. Seems a little harsh. Rockets should be exciting this year.

  12. J says:

    They just need more then 2 days of practice to get a feel for each other and Deflino and Parson to get out of there shooting slump cause they have been bad from the 3 so far the team will get more involed the more time they play together its just been 2 games

  13. AnnoYouLater says:

    they should have won the game…but i think harden wana show off a little by getting a buzzzer beater 3…he got a lot of time but he let the clock run and made his move under barely 4 sec and instead driving the ball to get a foul(which is really good at) or getting closer for a better shot he chose to hit a 3 points when he only need 1 point to win…i think all of the attention his getting from his 1st 2 games got in to his head and wanted more…i hope he learn something to this lost…

  14. HypeBeast says:

    J Harden got good team mates, he got Asik, Lin, White, Delfino, Parsons and so on.

  15. Vi says:

    Really bad article here…Harden have been great and the rest of the team better, rebounding and offense is good. The whole team starting with Harden needs to play better defense. I think Fran was waiting for the Rockets to lose to publish this, hater. C’mon Stan Van tell him about a good Rocket Defense.

  16. Bob says:

    Rip City here, Harden played selfish ball last night and result in a win for Portland. He turned his ankle and jacking up shots (8 for 24 and 5 turnovers), come on man move the ball around. You got Lin on the outside and Asik in the paint. USE THEM!

  17. x says:

    harden is a monster okc stupid for wat they did

  18. TC777 says:

    After rewatching the game today, basically it chalked up to a lot of inexperiences on this young team including Harden. Also a big part is questionable coaching with too much relying on Harden. In that last minute during regulation, Harden was clearly trying to fulfill his top billing and prove he’s the main man by asking for the ball but failed. That’s a lot of pressure put on a 23 year old in only his third game with his new team. Hind sight is always 20/20, but he should have left the ball in JLin’s hand who had a clear path on his side and could have driven the ball in.

    What will be interesting to watch is how Houston can learn from this loss to diversify their game plan by having sets developed that will maximize the strength of their back court while minimizing their front court weaknesses.

  19. Jude says:

    Watching the game, it could have been a game won. The ball kind of got too sticky in Harden’s hand for quite some time that the offense stops and the defense sets. Another point, though it’s understandable JH would take the final shot, the iso play was not the best option that time i think. They could have called a time-out, if they had, and ran a set play. Well Rockets are still work in progress but i do hope JH would not be thinking as if he is the saviour of the Rockets franchise. Being a star doesn’t necessarily mean you should shine the brightest, but becoming an integral part of a constellation makes the night sky beautiful. Lastly, JH has not been playing solo… sometimes he just needs to take a back seat and find ways to be an impact if his shots ain’t falling.

  20. JackW says:

    I watched the game last night and to be honest I was surprised by how selfishly Harden played down the stretch. He was obviously awesome the first 2 games but maybe he started to get a bit over confident because he seemed happy to run the clock down and jack up contested threes on quite a few late game possessions. There was definitely way too much standing around on offence just watching.

    If I contrast this to the Knicks game I watched the night before there was plenty of ball movement from NYC and they defeated the Miami Heat as a result. Obviously different teams with different players etc, but basketball is a team game. Houston won’t go far just running iso’s for Harden in late game situations (or for entire second halfs).

  21. MKL says:

    Rockets are $15 million under the cap and average 23 years old. So yeah, the Rockets can afford to spend a little and get Harden, Lin and Asik some more help. They need to stop being so cheap and almost 3 and 0, consider the Lakers have spend twice as much on their roster and have ZERO wins.

    • dattebayo says:

      Currently, the Lakers have a $100 million payroll, the Rockets spend $48 million on their players. The Lakers are 0-3 and the Rockets are “almost” 3-0. At the end of the season, the Lakers will have home court advantage in the playoffs and the Rockets will “almost” have made the playoffs.
      Come on, look at the big picture. I don’t like the Lakers and I hope the young guys in Houston do well, but you really can’t compare those ball clubs atm. With all these young guys you really can’t expect them to end the season with a winning record and with the West the way it is, they won’t make the playoffs that way.

  22. J A says:

    that was on mchale i think. harden was pretty cold the 4th quarter and setting him up to play iso ball. jacked up too many shots. in that situation, lin shouldve been given the reigns to the offense cos he can direct players better and get some open looks. but no, that kind of iso-hero-ball only works on kobe.

    also, the rookies. the offense was stagnant at parts throughout the game and shouldve given t jones, d motiejunas, s machado and r white some play time. they need to develop and they might just give that spark off the bench.

    tony douglas imo shouldnt get that much time as the main back up pg. sure he played good defence in the 4th quarter but he’s jacked up sooo many layups/ shots in all 3 games. give him and s machade equal time at pg and see who plays better. heck, they can even put in royce white as a pointforward with harden or delfino while lin rests.


  23. Dennis - Bulls Fan says:

    What an ugly, negative article.

  24. JJrge says:

    they could and should have won. They were losing but in last minute they put 3 points ahead and made 3 bad choices in offense (lost 2 layups) . They are too youngs , without Delfino, the team average is 22 years.

  25. Owen Sesaldo says:

    Well, it’s pretty obvious that LINsanity was just a fluke.

    Go Harden!

    • John Hoskin says:

      I wouldn’t say fluke, but he has decreased in his productivity. But he’s still putting up pretty good numbers Lol. Can’t call him a fluke considering he lead the knicks into the playoffs last year.

  26. SophieAnne says:

    Rockets got rid of Scola? WHY? I’m a Blazer Girl and that dude Scola used to eat our Team alive,when He played us it was like Kevin Mchale had risen from the Grave. Ohhh what, Mchale’s still alive,and He’s rockets coach? Ouch

  27. NBA2k13 says:

    hey dont forget about Jlin… he averaging 15.3, 7.3, 5.7, and 2.3. its not as good as the linsanty streak but hey he can still play

  28. aaaaaa says:

    I think if anyone is going to step up, it has to be Chandler Parsons. Parsons had a good rookie season, but he has the potential to be even better.

  29. sallas07 says:

    I think the rockets need time to gel together and find their sweet spot. This article is a little bit too soon, but has a few truths in it. One might not be so sure they apply yet, but the team definately has some potential.

  30. Just-A-Thought says:

    I was going to not comment, but since others raised the subject, I will just add: Fran – Jeremy Lin had nearly a double-double in the first game, then 21pts, 10reb, 7ast in the win on the road against the Hawks. While the most common article titles these days talk about Houston having possibly the best back court in the NBA, it makes your words look bad, completely ignoring the presence of Jeremy LIn, who, BTW, scored what would have been the last 3 points in the game, in clutch, giving the Rockets their 3rd W, if that last 3 pointer by Portland did not fall. See, Lin would have been the one who won the game. Not Harden. Add that to the above, and that should make you feel at least a bit uncomfortable, with that “one man show” statement. Yes. Last night’s game was awful, Rockets-wise. The Rockets have 11 (!) new players on the roster. The avg. age is 23 and some change. Yes. The ball did not move at all for waaay too long. Delfino shot zero for 1 million, the Rockets shot under 20pct (!) from 3, Asik missed at least two should-have-been-nasty-dunks opportunities, and Harden, also, had a really bad shooting / finishing at the rim night. So yeah… Your article seems pretty off to me. It’s not about Harden not getting help. It’s about the Rockets needing to learn (1) what the NBA is about (2) how to play together… Two courses that are much bigger, and probably much more relevant than discussing Harden’s “solo act”… On that, just one last thought: in the first two games Harden scored his 82 points in the context of team play (!), which takes the relevance of your article down yet another level… Sorry…

    • John Hoskin says:

      i cannot agree more. Harden is a great player and he will continue to grow. But he needs to learn that NBA is a team sport and the Rockets are not a team that he wants to be on to be a star. Last night, he was shooting bricks (8-24) but still demanded the last possession of the ball. He should’ve given the ball to Jlin so he can run the offense and set other players up with a open shot.. I thought it was kind of ironic how harden tried to do the exact same thing J Lin did last season against the rockets lol

  31. James harden says:

    Im the best

  32. Gian Carlo says:

    We’ve all seen it on the replay,Harden was fouled by Matthews on his last possession it was just breaks of the game, I’ll take that any time of the day. Still a good game for the rockets as a whole.
    Look what’s the situation with the west team,a team that beefed up their middle and in the point,up to now it is still NIL for them.
    Houston will definitely better their plays,with the players running on the same page.
    So excited for this Rocket team right now, they made themselves relevant again,since OLAJUWON ERA!

  33. Steve says:

    For months after he was signed, Lin refused to be called the face of the Rockets. By contrast, Harden arrived in Houston declaring himself to be the “leader” of the team through whom the offense will now run. Against Portland, he was shooting 33% yet continued to throw up bricks (24 altogether) and insisted on taking the last shot.

    Lin prioritizes his team and teammates. Harden prioritizes personal accomplishment and risks turning into a lesser version of Carmelo Anthony. McHale needs to sit the 23 year old kid down and cut his ego down to size before it destroys the team chemistry and morale.

    • JK says:

      In the last quater when the Rockets needed scoring it was all James Harden, i kknow he was tired but if your shooting like that let Lin run the offense.

    • noongame says:

      The last 18 seconds in regulation, i like to see the ball in lin’s hand with high pick and roll so either he get to the basket for lay up,short range jumper or look for wide open teammate since he tend to draw crowd of defense when he get to the paint…especially when he just got 3 points out of it but the last play harden demanded the ball.

    • MagicNicks says:

      Well said! The beard man needs to share the ball and let Lin to be the floor general, for that is lin’s specialty!

  34. Jen says:

    I think the Rockets are off to a great start. I thought the other players did contribute more in the last game and they could have won the game if the ref actually called the foul on that last possession. They’ve won two games and lost only 1, which went to overtime. I think the coach should let the bench players and rookies play more.

  35. Jim says:

    Really, the whole team wasn’t playing a team game. Too much 1 on 1, iso, not secure the ball and most importantly, not competitve at all

  36. The People says:

    Its one game…they are 2 Ws and 1 loss. Do you expect a team with inexperienced players across the board to win every game. Hold this article for after game 10 to judge if Hardens show (pretty much what kobe does in LA) cant work in houston.

  37. The People says:

    Im no Rockets fan but come on….they are 2 W’s with 1 loss. Do you expect a team with inexperienced players across the board to win every game. Hold this article after 10 games to see where there record stands.

    • Tetsuo697_2 says:

      I agree its to early to tell but i think harden is playing at a all star level and will probably continue to get better and when the rest of the team starts to flow i think they will be a second round playoff team.

      • uoykcuf says:

        love the rockets, love the beard and Aldrich!(what a surprise) But second round? Playoff? Hell no.

    • cdub says:

      hey i’m a rockets fan and i apprecciate this.

  38. Gian Carlo says:

    Jlin time to wake up man! Show them the way you use to be before,it is almost the same offense you are use to. You are the one dictating the tempo of the game.
    Give the beard man an ample help, time to unleash the linsanity factor once again.
    Go Houston!

    • MagicNicks says:

      If Harden won’t share the ball, how can Lin help?!

      • Bruno D says:

        Lin is the PG you dumb***, hes the one giving Harden the ball. Jesus. Its Lins job to get everyone involved now quit sticking up or him when he needs to be held accountable

  39. Ag15 says:

    Can’t forget about Jeremy Lin he’s been balling too so to say this is an one man show that’s using the wrong word choice.

  40. Ag15 says:

    It’s true but so far Jeremy Lin has been pretty damn good so solo act isn’t really the right word choice

    • Bruno D says:

      Lol come on man. Your sticking up for him right now. Lin IS the reason why Harden is doi9ng a solo act, Lin is the PG and should be held accountable for not getting everybody involved. Lin is a Failure

  41. heroes del silencio says:

    “harden show can’t be solo act” thanks mr. obvious… so after the first loss this writer comes out and says ” So it turns out that you really do need more than one player on your team to win every night” well what did you expect? Michael Jordan? and yea I think you do need more than one player to be called a team. I guess you can’t expect much from a sports writer but come on the other writers on nba.com do make better point in comparison to certain situations, this guy just clogs his writing with trivia and non-sense…

    • Game Time says:

      Agreed! The things I dislike most about these NBA writers are they miss great topics by opting to write about the obvious or anything surrounding a star. We should have been hearing about Portland’s team looking strong out the gate. Lillard making a possible go for ROY. Instead it’s just this garbage.

      • Kingie says:

        Double agreed!! I hope one of these ‘writers’ give some props to Collison and Mayo, they were so underrated in their old teams, now together they are gonna have the second or third best starting backcourt in the L!

  42. name says:

    my co-worker’s step-mother makes $70 an hour on the computer. She has been without work for six months but last month her income was $12586 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this Name*

  43. Max Specht says:

    I agree with this point. The Rockets roster has a great deal of potential that needs to shine, and I think that while Harden will get a steady diet of possessions, someone like Jeremy Lin needs to get the rest of the guys going to help facilitate his offensive output. Someone like Omer Asik can rebound amazingly, but he also needs to make his presence felt on the offensive end at times (although his defense will make a great difference in many games). But a good deal of the roster are guys who rely on the movement of their PG or Harden (who is an above average playmaker at SG). Guys like Patrick Patterson (pick and roll) and Carlos Delfino (kick out for three) need to be brought out of their shells by Lin.

    The Rockets seem like they will have a solid run of consecutive wins sometime in March, and hopefully they have won enough by that point to make it count. But I have all the faith that this roster will develop into something special.

    • Bruno D says:

      Lin isn’t even a true point guard, he will never help make everyone involved on offense. He doesn’t know how. The only thing he proved during Linsanity was that he can score although i’ll say most of that was sheer luck and I mean it. He will not be one of the top 17 starting point guards and the reason I use 17 is because 15 is too low and 20 might be too high.

  44. Ming says:

    It is the coach’s fault. The good coach never use his player to death.

  45. pete says:

    to be fair though, I think Harden called for an iso in that situation