Listen to enough NBA Media Day interviews, and you’ll begin to assume it’s the first day of school after summer vacation. Reporters routinely ask players what they did during their time away, and players, in turn, talk about the weight they’ve lost, the muscle they’ve gained, or the skills they’ve tried to bolster. James Harden is no different, having added a one-legged, running 3-point shot to his arsenal, which was perhaps the league’s most dangerous, to begin with.
The unorthodox jumper is merely the latest innovation Harden has unveiled since the beginning of his MVP-winning 2017 season. On some level, that underscores the dilemma Harden faces. The creative lefty and the Houston Rockets organization — presently facing as much uncertainty as they have in years, between a fraught political difference of opinion and also the looming onset of what seems like a make-or-break Russell Westbrook era — might shortly run out of tricks and toys to urge over the NBA title hump. And with that in mind, this season may represent the best remaining shot for Harden and his teammates to reach the secure land.
There are a handful of reasons to wonder whether this might be Harden’s last good chance for a ring in Houston. First, it’s simply not practical to assume that, at age 30, he’ll keep finding new ways to score this efficiently. In 2016-17, the lefty single-handedly drew more 3-point shooting fouls than any NBA team; then, realizing that officials would be far less gracious with their whistles the subsequent year, he nearly tripled the number of
Making the Playoffs but falling short of the NBA Finals in each of the past seven seasons.
In the 2018-19 campaign, he introduced a controversial sidestep maneuver to generate more space on jumpers, and this year he seems to have added a running, one-legged variation thereon. Through every of the tweaks and additions, Harden has still been dominant, with a real shooting share of .600 or higher in seven of the past eight seasons, as well as every of the past 3. but simply assuming that he’ll be able to keep up this pace while averaging thirty points per game doesn’t appear all that wise.
Yes, Harden has been incredibly healthy throughout his career and has never missed over ten games in a very season.2 except for all the relative stability the Rockets’ front workplace has enjoyed, the last few months have appeared a small amount rockier than usual. fourth-year coach Mike D’Antoni, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year, will enter the final year of his deal without an extension. (Owner Tilman Fertitta shared a surprising level of detail regarding the negotiations at one point before later saying that he regretted so much of the conversation about a potential deal becoming public. He’s since said that he expects D’Antoni to be the team’s coach “for a long time.”)
Even a lot of pressing: The team is currently dealing with the fallout from a tweet Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent last week expressing support for ongoing protests in Hong Kong. It’s estimated that as many as 500 million Chinese citizens watched at least one NBA game last season, and the Rockets have enjoyed enormous support from that massive fanbase since drafting Yao Ming. Fertitta and the NBA both released statements saying that Morey’s tweet — since deleted — did not represent either the Rockets organization or the league as a whole. and the Chinese Basketball Association, which is chaired by Yao, has suspended its relationship with the Rockets.
It’s far too soon to know what the Rockets’ front office will look like this time next year. but things shake out, it goes without saying that Houston has a handful of the most analytic-minded folks in the game. D’Antoni, of Seven Seconds or Less fame, was the one who unleashed Harden as a full-time point guard, while Morey is recognized for prioritizing data more than just about any executive in the sport. Losing either one of them would create the possibility of a significant shift in offensive philosophy.