Reading between the lines of James Harden All-Star interview

Feb 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Western Conference guard James Harden of the Houston Rockets (13) speaks during media day for the 2016 NBA All Star Game at Sheraton Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Western Conference guard James Harden of the Houston Rockets (13) speaks during media day for the 2016 NBA All Star Game at Sheraton Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

All-Star Media Day in Toronto, David Aldridge interviews James Harden to get his perspective on the Houston Rockets’ season to date which provided some interesting takeaways.

Aldridge: James, back at the All-Star Game, I know it doesn’t get old. Good to get a little break right now?

Harden: Yeah, we need it too. We’re here in Toronto, I think everyone is excited. I know I am, um, haven’t been to Toronto all year this year. So, this is exciting. The weather is pretty cold, but other than that people are really nice.

Aldridge: You can’t show your stuff when you got a coat on right? …(laughter)

Harden: this is (can’t hear the word he uses: sounded like street) cold here, I mean it’s negative. But you know I’m finding a way to deal with it we all are. NOTE: I live in Toronto – just so everyone knows yesterday was the first day this season I’ve needed gloves it’s been that mild. Toronto news has been about snow storms and bad weather in the States, but up until yesterday we’d had one day of snow that stayed on the ground (for a day no less) and one cold day.

Aldridge: I know if you knew, ah.. if you could figure out why this thing isn’t working this year you would have done something about it. But, how frustrating is it that it’s the same team, and your just not getting that consistency.

Harden: It’s very frustrating, very frustrating, especially with what we did last year. The great season we had last year now granted we are missing DeMo who was a big part of our success last year.  It’s very frustrating, you know it’s very frustrating and we gotta figure it out. You know we definitely gotta make a playoff run for the next I think 27 games left.  So it’s going to be interesting.

Aldridge: What do you ah one of the leaders of the team, are you a verbal guy with the rest of the guys or do you just say watch what I do.

Harden: Both, – – both. I work extremely hard, so the guys follow that and then ah if I need to communicate with an individual or the entire team I’ll do  it that way as well.  Just depending on the situation and what now but for the most part it’s both

Aldridge: This team defensively have had stretches where you guys have been on point, but then there are these lulls and they seem to last 4 or 5 games where the defense just goes down the toilet.

Harden: You know it’s been all season  (background Aldridge responds Yeah) it’s been very inconsistent. And you know like you say we have very good spots where we are locked in, we get stops, we get out in transition, we look really good. And then sometimes we just look ah, you know very like draining and boom (? not sure what word he used there, I think he said dull or boom) and we gotta wipe away that, like I say thus second half of the season is going to be very interesting and ah I think we’ll get it done.

Three notes from interview

Okay, so the first thing that stood out for me is how calm James Harden looked in the interview until Aldridge brings up the Rockets troubles. Harden’s answers fall within his normal responses he’s made all season basically saying they’ll turn it around. Um James… you do realize you are out of the playoffs currently and have just 27 games remaining right?

The next point Harden makes that I found interesting was his reference to Donatas Motiejunas. Its’ the first time this season I’ve heard him mention D-Mo’s affect on the squad (though I’ve referenced him plenty, lol) in a manner that almost implied he felt the team’s inconsistencies were due to D-Mo’s absence. I’m not sure if Harden recognizes it or perhaps the two share the same agent, but comments like that will go a long way to increasing Motiejunas’ asking price come contract negotiation this summer.

The third comment he made that stood out was his response to what type of leader he is. Stating that he leads by example and also pulls players aside to talk to them when needed. Ummmm……….is it just me or does this statement feel like a canned response as opposed to an honest answer? Earlier this week the coach who began the season with Harden (McHale) sited the fact the bearded man showed up over weight to training camp as part of the issue.

Now before everyone jumps on me regarding his ankle (he apparently had a very bad ankle twist this summer) I’ll point you to players like Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love who’ve employed different conditioning practices to prepare for the season especially coming off injury. Duncan and Noah specifically utilize the pool which leads to the question perhaps Harden spent more time with his then famous girlfriend Ms Kardashian, Kanye and celebrating his $200 million dollar signing with adidas then he did worrying about improving.

As for his assertion that he speaks to players or the team as required I have one reaction- – I guess they don’t respect you as a leader! Seriously, if they did then why aren’t they playing with more consistency and energy?

Bottom line even though this was a simple Q & A session what was said and maybe more importantly what wasn’t said was very telling. As fans relax  to enjoy the All-Star Weekend in my home city of Toronto you can bet the majority of General Managers are actively working the phones and buckled down with their teams figuring out strategy. Based on what Harden said regarding the team’s desire to get into the playoffs Daryl Morey may be sleeping in his war room!

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With the trade deadline around the corner, make sure you visit Space City Scoop on a daily basis for our trade series. Each day, SCS will feature an article on who the Rockets should trade for or what it would take to part ways with the players currently on the roster. Finally, we’ll assess the Rockets and each team in the Association in terms of what their needs are, if they should be buyers or sellers, and also speculate on who would be the ideal trade target.