The rivalry between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo continues.
Harden’s Houston Rockets topped Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 on Sunday in Orlando. Harden scored just 24 points on 5-for-14 shooting but had six steals in his team’s win. Giannis was a statistical monster in the loss, putting up 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.
Harden was asked after the game about the difficulty in defending Antetokounmpo and had no interest in answering. Instead, he said “next question”.
James Harden’s secret to conditioning in the NBA Bubble in Orlando has been revealed.
Harden played 43 minutes in the Houston Rockets’ 153-149 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. His 49 points led all scorers and helped Houston get the victory. His ability to play so well and for so long in the first game back after a layoff of four months was the topic of conversation after the game.
“I was bragging on your conditioning, how you’ve been running the steps up-and-down at the hotel,” ESPN’s Rachel Nichols said in a postgame interview with Harden.
“You can’t be telling everyone my secrets!” Harden joked in response. “I feel good … overtime game for the first game in a long time, I think my body help up really well.”
So, Harden has been working on his conditioning by running hotel stairs in at Disney World in Orlando. Those are generally grueling, so it makes sense that it might help.
James Harden’s Houston Rockets enter the NBA’s resumed season in Orlando tied for fifth in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 40-24. They are a game behind the fourth spot and 2.5 games behind the third spot.
Ordinarily, you would figure they would be motivated to move up in the standings in order to get home court for important playoff series. But that is not Harden’s concern. He says home-court advantage does not exist in the NBA’s Bubble situation.
“Home-court advantage? There’s no home-court advantage,” Harden said on Thursday, via Alykhan Bijani. “We don’t have any fans…It don’t matter if you’re fourth, fifth or sixth seed. For us, it’s about getting in shape and making sure our offense and defense is crispy and we’re all on the same page. We’ll play anybody.”
The comfort of playing at home, staying at one’s home, and having the fan support are some of the factors that make playing at home an advantage. There is also the notion that referees can be influenced by a crowd. Those factors disappear in Orlando, where there will not be a crowd. That means teams that are already assured of a playoff appearance might not be as motivated to fight for a high seed as they usually would be. But all teams better be prepared to win when the playoffs do come around. Harden believes his Rockets will be, and he has a lot to prove.
It almost feels like there’s even more at stake in this year’s NBA playoffs than usual. Due to the pause in NBA action, teams that will be involved in the playoffs have had extra time to think ahead and plan and consider the repercussions of what a bad playoff run could mean. Multiple superteams will feel that they don’t have an indefinite amount of time to win a championship. Players are inching closer to free agency. Some teams, as built, may not be able to continue to exist in their current form.
Which players really need to win a title sooner rather than later? These five could face serious consequences if things don’t go their way in the postseason.
An evaluation of an NBA player’s legacy is one of the most volatile aspects of the league, as in some cases, all it takes is a single game or shot to define an entire career. Every NBA player is looking to prove themselves whenever they step foot on the hardwood. However, there comes the point for specific players, where proving themselves becomes a necessity.
From former number one overall picks to potential league MVPs, here are the five players with the most to prove headed into Orlando.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has long been a fan of James Harden and spoke about the 2017-2018 MVP in some glowing terms recently.
Morey was a guest on the “Pomp Podcast” with Anthony Pompliano recently and discussed Harden. He defended the Rockets guard and had high praise for him.
“I don’t think the media is super fair of him,” Morey said of Harden. “I think part of it is he he has a tight circle of people that that he trusts. With those people who he knows have his best interests at heart and he’s had a history with them, he’s very gregarious, very open, very smart. Just this great guy. And with everyone else, he’s not the opposite. He’s just reserved. He’s not someone who is going to be a big media guy or things like that.
“So, I think that hurts him a little bit, but I can I can tell you privately he’s like a basketball genius. He’s a great quality human being. We’ve worked together for eight or nine years now, and I couldn’t have a better partner to try and win a title with. In fact, most days I wake up saying, ‘I’ve let him down,’ because I haven’t gotten him got him the right players to win a title.”
The Rockets have gotten close to a title but haven’t been able to win it all since going back-to-back from 1994-1995. They’ve twice made the conference finals with Harden and have won over 50 games five times with him. He’s become a bonafide superstar in Houston, leading the league in scoring three years in a row. Morey has previously even said that Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.
The NBA playoffs are often full of remarkable performances, with one player taking over a game and dragging his team over the line. After all, we’ve seen it plenty of times over the year, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and many more.
Who are those players now? Here are five who could, if they take over a game or series, be good enough to lead their team to the NBA Finals — and even win a championship when the season resumes in Orlando this summer.