No one can deny that James Harden is one of the best players in the league right now — not even James Harden. But perhaps all the attention is getting to Harden’s head a bit — he appears to be clashing with his own teammates on the best way to run the offense, i.e. through James Harden, and it’s way too early in the season for that kind of drama.
Harden is a ball-dominant guard, which means he needs to rock to be effective. Jeremy Lin, who was benched at the start of this season partially because he’s also ball-dominant, is supposedly the team’s point guard — meaning he calls the plays relayed from the sideline and runs them to the best of his ability. So take a look at this crucial late-game possession against the Lakers last night, and notice what Harden does (around the 0:07 mark) while Lin calls a play:
If it looks like Harden is walking away from Lin and completely ignoring the play call and just standing in the corner not moving while his teammates try to make something happen on a limited shot clock, it’s because that’s exactly what happened. Lin ended up taking a forced runner as the shot clock expired. At the end of the video, you can see Harden walk over to Lin. This is apparently what happened next:
James Harden just lit into Jeremy Lin for his last shot. Beverly and McHale had to signal to him to calm down.
— Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisHW) November 8, 2013
Ball-dominant star who considers himself the best shooting guard in the league is mad at fellow ball-dominant star* (*deserved or not) for trying to run a play and coming up short? That’s not going in the “team leader” scrapbook. Then again, it’s no secret that Harden loves running iso-plays for himself — it must sting when he doesn’t get to touch the ball once in a crunch-time possession.
Harden choosing to ignore the play and then pout about it is a bad sign. Everyone was worried before the season that Dwight Howard’s maturity level could derail the team’s title hopes, but maybe it’s the other young star that Rockets fans should be worried about. Howard left L.A. to escape the team’s star ball hog, but seems to have run into a similar situation in Houston.
Note: Harden did drop 35 points in the loss, but on 9-24 shooting, which is not exactly the most effective night from the field.