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.