Westbrook was asked after the game about the matter and dismissed it. He said nothing would get in between the two friends.
An animated on-court discussion between Russell Westbrook and James Harden is far from evidence of any friction between two stars who have been friends for two decades and decided this summer to reunite on the Rockets. Russ when asked about that exchange: pic.twitter.com/OQJSTI0kEJ
Like Chris Webber said on the telecast, perhaps Harden and Westbrook’s friendship is the reason they have a comfort level where they feel they can get into things in their first game together with the Rockets (they were previously teammates on the Thunder).
The Rockets shot 36.7 percent from the field against the tough Bucks defense, which is likely the biggest explanation for their opening night loss. How well Westbrook and Harden play together remains one of the greatest topics of intrigue for the season.
Will Harden and Westbrook be able to get along on the court? We still don’t know. Right now, they’re certainly getting along off it. Rockets fans will also be pleased to see Westbrook bedding in and supporting Houston’s sports teams even if he’s new to town.
The NBA has tried to make it clear that it respects the rights of its executives, coaches and players to express their opinions on social and political issues, but two Houston Rockets stars were prevented from doing that following their preseason game in Japan on Thursday. According to the league, that was not supposed to happen.
When a reporter asked James Harden and Russell Westbrook a question related to the China situation after Houston’s 118-111 exhibition win over the Toronto Raptors, a Rockets team staffer quickly interjected and said the players would be answering “basketball questions only.”
James Harden and Russell Westbrook were asked if they would “feel differently” about speaking on political and societal affairs because of the events with the NBA/China.
A spokesperson interrupted and informed the reporter that the players would answer basketball questions only. pic.twitter.com/zMe8uWz2hY
The question was actually a more general one about whether Westbrook and Harden would be hesitant to express themselves freely going forward given all that has happened in recent days, but they were still stopped from answering it.
A few hours later, the NBA said the Rockets staffer “inappropriately interjected” and apologized to the reporter who was cut off.
NBA comment on Rockets postgame in Japan today: “A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”
This is yet another example of what a mess this situation has become. The NBA is caught between protecting its multibillion-dollar business interests while also remaining consistent with its longstanding views on freedom of speech, and that is precisely why commissioner Adam Silver has had to release multiple statements this week.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey angered many in China when he tweeted his support of the pro-democracy protests that have been ongoing in Hong Kong. China is a communist country, so now Silver has to somehow tread the line between staying on the good side of his communist business partners and supporting a league executive who essentially said “democracy is a good thing.” There’s simply no easy way to handle it, and that’s why there has been so much flip-flopping over the issue.
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James Harden continues to come up with creative ways to improve his game.
As if having a signature stepback weren’t enough, Harden worked to perfect a new 1-legged shot over the summer (watch here). The 2017-2018 MVP said on Monday that the new shot is “already natural.”
“It’s already natural,” James Harden said about his one-legged 3. He’ll keep mixing them in, but he agrees with Mike D’Antoni that he doesn’t necessarily need to add to his shot arsenal. pic.twitter.com/9DnxRAGxCs
It doesn’t sound like Harden is going to be using the new move at a high clip during games, but if it’s this natural already, we may see it before long.
Harden’s Houston Rockets took a big gamble by trading for Russell Westbrook over the summer. They felt they had been left out with numerous other contenders improving over the offseason and did what they could to change things up and improve. We’ll begin to see before long what kind of results they get.
As much as that’s Harden talking up Westbrook, it also can be interpreted as Harden pointing out qualities his previous running mate — Chris Paul — may have lacked. After all, it was CP3 who was supposed to help the Rockets cash in on a title, but Paul kept getting hurt and missing time, leaving much of the load to Harden.
Maybe Westbrook’s “dog” mentality is what Houston needs to take the next step. Harden seems to think so.
James Harden still seems a little annoyed with the media over their selection of Giannis Antetokounmpo for NBA MVP.
Harden came in second in MVP voting last season, receiving 23 percent of first-place votes, compared to 78 percent for Antetokounmpo, who won it. In August, Harden appeared on 97.9 The Box in Houston and said he felt a media-driven narrative helped propel Giannis to the award.
“Nah, it hasn’t happened yet, it’s too early. Wait until the preseason and when the regular season starts up again. But they [the media] for sure got some teams they locked in on. We all know. That’s just what it is. You can’t tell me that a guy whose team was a 14-seed at one point last year, and ended up a four-seed with everything that was going on—so many injuries—and who went on a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games in one season…and all the talk was about [Giannis Antetokounmpo]? There’s no way,” Harden told GQ.
“I just had to look at what I could do to get better for next year. You can’t pout or be mad, and the kid had an unbelievable season, so did his team. But the things I was putting up were legendary. You going to look back in 10, 15 years from now and be like, is that really true? Did that really happen? That’s some stuff they were doing back when Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and all those other guys were playing. But I’m happy. We have a team goal of winning a championship, and I’m ready to get going now.”
Harden averaged 36.1 points per game last season, which was the 7th-highest amount ever — behind only guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. However, Harden won MVP the year before, so he could be right that the media wanted to see some variety and focused on Antetokounmpo for the award instead. The other big factor is that Giannis’ Milwaukee Bucks were the top team in the East, whereas Houston began the season poorly. Their respective records likely had a big role in the voting.
James Harden is a masterful offensive player and may be adding a new move to his arsenal.
Rico Hines, a player development coach for the Sacramento Kings, shared video on Instagram Sunday that shows Harden playing on the practice courts at UCLA. The video shows Harden faking one way and then moving the other to take a running one-legged 3-point shot:
Harden’s move seems very atypical. Players use crossover moves, but few ever take long-distance shots on the run the way Harden did. They’re usually moving towards the basket on runners, not going sideways. It takes an incredible amount of leg strength to push off for a shot like that.
“It’s just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan,” Morey said. “You give James Harden the ball, and before you’re giving up the ball, how many points do you generate? Which is how you should measure offense, James Harden is by far No. 1 in NBA history. And he was No. 1 even with the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was just a little more hidden. So you needed good data to suss that out. So we knew he had that amazing skill to be a scorer.
“Now the counter argument is reasonable. They say if you put Michael Jordan on a team now, he would do more than James Harden. That’s possible. But if you’re just saying, NBA history, if you give this guy the ball, how much does this guy score before the other team gets the ball? It’s James Harden.”
The funny thing about numbers is: if you know how to use them, you can make almost any argument you want. Morey is choosing a specific metric for how he measures scoring, and that one indicates Harden is the best. Does that mean Harden is a better or more complete player than MJ? No, but for that particular stat, Harden stands above all others.
The James Harden and Chris Paul partnership may be over, but Harden still wanted to set the record straight about their relationship.
Harden said Saturday that talk was a “rift” and that he has “nothing negative to say” about Paul after he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
.@JHarden13 on Chris Paul and all the media chatter the last few weeks, said it was all " false talk. Chris was great with him while he was here, great leader. Guys have disagreements on the court all the time. I've got nothing negative to say about Chris." @KPRC2
Despite Harden’s comments, it’s pretty clear he and Paul didn’t always completely see eye-to-eye. This had been pushed aside by Houston as normal behavior between two stars, but Harden probably doesn’t mind the fact that he’ll instead be playing alongside Russell Westbrook next season.
James Harden and Chris Paul clearly did not get along well last season with the Houston Rockets, and the issues may have come to a boil after they lost their playoff series to the Golden State Warriors this year. Numerous reports claimed the two superstars had an argument in the locker room after the Rockets were eliminated, but the bickering apparently started on the court.
In a recent episode of his “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst revealed some of what it was that Harden and Paul said to one another during that Golden State series. One exchange had to do with what Windhorst described as a “schematic thing” and an issue with spacing, and Harden wanted none of Paul shouting orders at him.
“Chris barked at James, and James turned to him — this was described to me by a player who was on the court — and he said, ‘With you it’s always f—ing something,'” Windhorst revealed.