Rockets’ Struggles Point To James Harden

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Nov 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) comes off the floor after playing against the Boston Celtics at the end of the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, heading into the 2014-15 season, James Harden had spent the summer playing with Team USA.  During that time Harden, began playing a different kind of basketball than he had before.  He was defending, he was leading.  And he carried that mindset and focus into last year’s incredible season that should have netted him a MVP award.  But it did net the Rockets a Western Conference Finals appearance.

We all know that Harden can score.  Once free of playing number three for the Thunder, James Harden quickly showed that he can score with the best in the league.  Penetrating, getting to the free throw line at an incredible rate, developing the step-back and improved three-point shooting.

At the same time however, Harden, in his first two years with the Rockets also developed a reputation as one of the worst defenders in the league.  Youtube videos and verbal shots from every NBA commentator in the business.  Some was deserved some was exaggerated but the Rockets needed him to be better and they needed him to be the leader of the team that he’s supposed to be on both sides of the court.

Nov 29, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) shoots the ball over New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) defending during the 2nd qtr of the game at Madison Square Garden. The Rockets won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Harden was also much more efficient on the offensive end during the ’14-’15 season. The turnovers were cut down and he was leading this team no matter which other 4 players were on the court.

Through the course of the season, commentators even began to take note of the improved defensive play. Respect grew among NBA alums, players and sportswriters.  Harden was well on his way to being considered a top five player year in and year out, possibly top three.

But with success comes other challenges, media, fame, money.  Sure he already had a max contract.  But then came the REALLY big money with the new Adidas contract.

And then came the challenges with the fame as the players voted him MVP and as we all know now, the Kardasians.

The Rockets in the offseason did their part.  They got him an offensive running mate that he desired and asked for in Ty Lawson.  Thus far the Ty Lawson experiment has been close to a disaster, although Lawson did have his best game in a Rocket uniform on Monday night against Detroit.

On Tuesday an audio clip of Jason Terry was released.  The quote was, “just remember this is not the same group” and Patrick Beverley chimes in, “not the same”.  So what were they referring to?  We all know about the infamous team only meeting prior to Kevin McHale’s firing.  Clearly there is dissention among the players.

On the surface however, very little changed in the offseason.

So what does that leave as possibilities? (click below)

Next: What's Changed With Houston This Season?