City Sports Report

The Maturation Of James Harden

James Harden is being a leader this year and not just in the scoring department. (photo courtesy of

James Harden is one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. His unconventional style, smooth jump shot and strength to finish in the paint have given many a defender a long night without sleep. But with the great play have come some hiccups. Harden has not been known as the best defender and he has also had some moments where he has disappeared. But going into this season, something seems to be different about Harden. When asked about what was the next step to take the Houston Rockets to the next level, Harden had this to say: “I think for me just playing at the level that I am. Being a vocal leader and going out and showing how hard I can play on both ends of the floor and just doing what I’ve been doing.” In the past we may not have heard these things come from Harden. But it seems like his focus is in a different place than it has been since he has been in Houston.

Ever since Harden has been in Houston, he has been the main focus of their team. He showed he could put up numbers as the 6th man of the Oklahoma City Thunder when they went to the NBA Finals, and the next year he got the show all to himself. In 2012, his points per game average went from 17 points per game to 26 points per game as the main man for Houston. And that season, he took them back to the playoffs. But unfortunately, he left the defense that he played in Oklahoma City with the Thunder. Harden was routinely seen loafing on defense and not even giving any effort at all. And with that, the Rockets were back but would not go anywhere with a leader that did not give defensive effort. The next season, Harden would continue to play the same horrible defense that would have some criticizing him as a player. There were even memes and videos talking about how bad he was as a defender. But over the summer, it seems that Mr. Harden has discovered a little defense. Playing with the U.S. National team this summer, he was placed in a leadership role along with New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis. And with that, he began his quest to become a better leader. He would play so well defensively, that US National Team coach Mike Kryzewski hailed him as their best perimeter defender. And even though he has not become a lockdown defender this season in Houston, he has shown more aptitude on that end of the floor and in turn is showing his teammates that defense is more of a priority for him this season.

Harden has turned it up defensively compared to other seasons, but he has also turned it up vocally by his own admission. In the past, he may not have been the one to say something to a teammate in regards to positioning and what he saw on the court that a teammate may have missed. And because of that, the Rockets as a team may have lost a game or two due to his lack of leadership. But this year, it seems he is taking his leadership even more seriously. Gone are the days where he misses the opportunities to point out things to his teammates that he sees. Harden can now be seen regularly speaking to his teammates about things he sees on the court and what he wants and needs them to do. The leader of the team is unquestionably Harden at this point. That is why the team has continued to stay afloat despite the extended loss of center Dwight Howard to various injuries this season. And going forward, we can expect Harden to continue to grow in this role as a leader. Besides, if he does not accept the role and relish it, then who else do the Rockets have to make it happen? The star player has to be the man who stirs the drink and Harden finally is stepping up to the challenge.

The combination of leadership and better defensive play has helped carry the Rockets to sustained success despite the injuries the Rockets have incurred all year. And some would say they are wildcards in the Western Conference if Dwight Howard comes back strong down the stretch. But there is no way any of this happens without Harden playing the way he is. He is scoring a career-high 27 points per game while averaging a career-high seven assists per game. But what’s even bigger than the points and assists are the leadership and effort defensively that he has picked up this season. The Rockets need that from their best player if they have any hope of going far this postseason. Harden was once a follower in Oklahoma City. But now he is a leader of his own team. It did not happen overnight in his tenure in Houston, but over time he has grown into the leader role for this team. And the team could be better for it.

For more sports talk, feel free to hit me up via Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .


  1. ASR

    February 19, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I like Harden he’s carried them this yr. Going to need help from bigs in the paint to get past 1st rd.

  2. Rob Thomas Brown

    February 19, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Nice article on Harden, love his game, impressed by his maturation. defense, defense, defense will be the key for them.

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