Rockets is Harden
If there’s anything the Rockets’ match yesterday showed, it’s that their fortunes are tired to top dog James Harden’s. They go where he goes. It’s true of all high-usage players in the National Basketball Association, to be sure; not for nothing have marquee names become, well, marquee names. In the case of the red and white, however, the relationship with the reigning Most Valuable Player is taken to extreme. Everything revolves around him. Everything. And it has been especially apparent of late in light of injuries to the supporting cast.
To Harden’s credit, the Rockets have met with success more often than not with him at the helm. Not counting the first month of their 201819 campaign, when they seemed discombobulated following offseason changes to the roster, he has played even better than expected. Much, much better. In fact, he has strung together groundbreaking performances that those around him are only too happy to ride on. And it isn’t as if he has revolutionized the offense in putting up historic numbers. On the contrary, he’s eminently predictable; he’ll initiate proceedings up top, surveying the situation and then deciding, often on a whim, whether to drive and shoot, draw a foul, court a double team and pass to an open teammate, or take his trademark stepback three pointer.
Needless to say, the Rockets will live with whatever results Harden produces. And, so far, he has rarely disappointed. Little wonder, them, that he’s back in the MVP conversation, no small feat given the body of work Giannis Antetokounmpo has put together for the surging Bucks. Yesterday, though, he proved that he’s also human, and that for all his otherworldly exertions, he, too, can have an off day; he canned just one of 17 three-point attempts en route to a pedestrian 11-of-32 clip all told. Yet, it’s a tribute to his importance to the cause that he still wound up just a rebound short of a triple-double in nearly engineering a road win.
Certainly, the Rockets will get better when their other vital cogs, including point god Chris Paul, return. Make no mistake, through: All is on Harden, and Harden is their all. And he’s delivering in spades. The question is if he can keep up the pace or if the regular season will run him ragged. He has been there and done that; Game Seven of the 2018 Conference Finals saw him elephant-walk his timid self to the court. Where he hasn’t gone and what he hasn’t done: Triumph in the sport’s grandest stage. And because he’s looking to do so, he may have to first take a step back in order to move two steps forward. Else, he may find himself closer to being a one-time supernova than an all-time superstar.