James Harden has long had a reputation for being a weak player on defense, but that narrative is outdated.
Harden has been among the tougher defenders in the league in post-up situations the past few seasons, including this year. And he’s heard all the jokes about teams trying to target him on defense. He dares them to do so.
“Come try it, and the s— won’t work,” Harden told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
MacMahon wrote a long article about the Rockets’ defense and how Houston is able to play well on that side of the court despite having a small-ball lineup. The keys come down to their ability to constantly switch on screens, and the one overlooked part of their small-ball lineup: whatever they lack in height they make up for in strength and sturdiness.
Harden is muscular and has an extremely strong lower body, which makes it tough for him to get pushed around.
Taking shots at Harden over his defense remains in style, at least when it comes to Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the days of mocking him for his defense and making embarrassing compilation videos may be over.
- James Harden
The Houston Rockets fought their way through an overtime win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, and let’s just say James Harden may have pushed a little harder than anyone on the court.
Harden scored 21 points on only 7-of-24 shooting, but it was enough for the Rockets to pull off the 111-110 victory. At one point in the first half, cameras showed some sort of mystery stain on Harden’s backside. There was a lot of speculation that it was, well, poop.
— Sky Judge (@fatmikefelger) March 1, 2020
We’re not quite ready to say Harden crapped his pants, but there’s only one person who knows for sure. What we do know is that Harden would not be the first athlete to soil himself during competition, so anything is possible.
Heck, even Paul Pierce says his infamous wheel chair incident from the playoffs several years ago was a result of having to go so bad he needed to get off the court, so it happens. If Harden was trying to hold that in throughout the entire first half, it’s no wonder he had trouble knocking down shots.
- James Harden
Giannis Antetokounmpo has made it clear in recent weeks that he is not a big fan of James Harden, and the feeling appears to be mutual.
When Antetokounmpo was picking his All-Star Game roster earlier this month on live TV, he had a funny moment while deciding between Harden, Kemba Walker and Trae Young. The Greek Freak said he didn’t want to pick Harden because he’d rather have a teammate who is going to pass. Harden was asked about that during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that aired on Friday, and he pointed out that he had more assists than Walker at the time Giannis made the remark. Harden also said it would be a lot easier to play basketball if he were 7 feet tall.
James Harden addresses the comments Giannis made during the All-Star draft about assists: "I average more assists him than him, I think….I don't see what the joke is."
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) February 28, 2020
The tension between Harden and Giannis may have begun last year when the two players finished 1-2 in the MVP voting. Harden admitted he was annoyed the media gave the award to Antetokounmpo, which Giannis may have taken as a sign of disrespect.
Giannis also threw an elbow at Harden during the All-Star Game, which may or may not have been inadvertent. If anything happens between the two players on the court going forward, it will be hard to believe it is a coincidence.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took a funny shot at James Harden while picking his All-Star team on Thursday.
Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are the captains of the two All-Star teams that will play in the All-Star Game in Chicago on February 16. The captains drafted their respective teams on TNT Thursday, and Giannis had a funny moment when deciding between Harden, Kemba Walker and Trae Young. He said his decision was between Walker and Young and that he didn’t want Harden.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 7, 2020
“I want somebody that’s gonna pass the ball, that’s what I want,” Antetokounmpo said, to multiple laughs.
LeBron ended up getting Harden on his team.
Harden is a ball-dominant player, but that’s also by design in Houston’s offense. Playing in the All-Star Game, things would likely be different, but it’s still funny to hear Giannis keep it real by saying that. So long as they keep Harden away from certain places on Saturday night, they should be fine.
Giannis’ team included himself, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Trae Young, Khris Middleton, Bam Adebayo, Rudy Gobert, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Brandon Ingram and Donovan Mitchell. LeBron’s team included Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Harden, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Domantas Sabonis.
Ja Morant had some extra motivation on Tuesday night.
The rookie led his Memphis Grizzlies to a 121-110 win over the Houston Rockets. Morant had 26 points, five rebounds and eight assists in the game and made an impressive 10/11 field goals. He also went 3/4 on three-pointers and was sure to let James Harden know about that.
After Harden failed to close out on a Morant 3-pointer, the rookie was seen saying “tell that motherf—er about me!”
"Tell that M*********** about me!" Morant drills a three after Harden plays him like Ben Simmons, has some choice words pic.twitter.com/IQDXY7Hn43
— ClutchPoints NBA (@ClutchPointsNBA) January 15, 2020
That seemed to be Morant’s response to a lack of respect he felt Harden showed him by giving him so much room to take the shot. Harden paid the price.
Morant had another sweet moment when he went behind his back around Harden and threw a lob:
— FOX Sports Grizzlies (@GrizzliesOnFSSE) January 15, 2020
Now that’s how you earn respect as a rookie. You take it to the veterans one player at a time until they learn.
James Harden and Dejounte Murray got into a bit of a shoving match early in Monday night’s game between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
Murray stole the ball and got an easy transition layup to extend his team’s lead to 22-7 late in the first quarter. Harden wasn’t happy and bumped Murray under the basket after the layup. Murray bumped Harden right back and then shoved the Rockets star.
Dejounte Murray and Harden going at it pic.twitter.com/kIwlZutmI2
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 17, 2019
Credit to Murray for not backing down after that cheap shot from Harden. There was no need for the bump, and it’s good Murray stood up for himself after it.
The NBA has denied the Houston Rockets’ bid to protest their Dec. 3 loss to the San Antonio Spurs despite agreeing that the referees misapplied the rule on a James Harden dunk that was not counted.
With 7:50 left in the game, Harden dunked the basketball, only to have it go in and come back out of the net. The basket was incorrectly waved off, and the Rockets ended up losing the game by two, prompting the protest.
In a statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the call was wrong, and Houston was incorrectly denied the opportunity to challenge the error. However, he added that, due to the fact that there were nearly eight minutes left in regulation, Silver decided that the Rockets “had sufficient time to overcome the error,” and thus the game would not be replayed from that point.
Rockets protest denied pic.twitter.com/JyIbLJXDLT
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) December 9, 2019
The Rockets had genuinely believed the NBA would take action in light of how egregious the error was, so they’ll come away disappointed here. It’s clear that the referees failed them, but they did have a 13-point lead at the time that they failed to hold down the stretch. In the NBA’s view, that failure is on them, not the officials.