Houston Rockets guard James Harden is one of the league’s most talented offensive players. His ability to make plays for his teammates, slash, get to the charity stripe and consistently score is well documented.
Another part of his game that’s well documented is his play on the defensive end, and not in a good way.
Throughout the last few seasons, Harden’s defensive flaws have been exposed by several clips on social media. Whether he lost sight of his man, failed to rotate in time, or didn’t hustle back on defense, giving up a transition basket, Harden was given a bad reputation by fans and was criticized daily.
It’s an area of his game he’s focused on improving heading into the upcoming season.
“I have to be better (defensively)”, Harden told reporters on Friday. “I will be better. I’m more than capable.”
With Dwight Howard, the Rockets’ rim protector last season, leaving the team to sign a free-agent contract with the Hawks this summer, Harden will have to play some of the best defense of his career in order for the Rockets to maximize their potential.
Harden, often knocked for his leadership as well, has already made steps in that department this offseason.
“You could see a different energy in him”, Eric Gordon, who’s known James Harden since High School, told reporters Friday. “I’ve been hanging out with him a lot ever since I’ve signed, and you know, he’s trying to partake in himself being a leader, and not just set an example by playing. He’s speaking up.”
Harden has gone out of his way to set up various team meetings, workouts, and team events to help the team settle in and gel, making the transition easy for new additions such as Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Neñe.
The next step for Harden, a four-time All-Star, is to make improvements on the defensive end this season. Should Harden become more of a two-way player, the Rockets’ chances at making the Playoffs would certainly increase.
But in the end, only James Harden has the power to control James Harden. This will come down to him, not harsh encouragement, shame, or disgust from fans.
The Rockets will open up their season against the Lakers on October 26th.