Despite admitting that his wrist is bothering him, Houston Rockets’ James Harden refuses to rest. He wants to play all 82 games this season.
On March 18, James Harden took a hard fall in a game against the Denver Nuggets. He got up and shook it off and hasn’t missed time, but he’s iced his wrist after every game since that fateful night. After going 5-20 from the floor as his Houston Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors, fans and pundits are wondering if it’s time he rested up and let the wrist heal fully before the postseason.
With the third seed secure for the Rockets, it makes perfect sense for them to let their superstar spend the last few games of the season getting his body right for playoffs. On top of having a wrist injury to deal with, he’s also got to be extremely worn out. He’s played in every game so far this year, and has logged more minutes than anybody other than Andrew Wiggins.
In any normal situation, Harden would almost certainly rest a few games. However, he backed himself into a corner this week in the most untimely fashion. It would look bad for him to sit out now, after saying earlier this week that playing all 82 games should matter when it comes to MVP voting. He insisted that he wouldn’t miss time, giving the following quote to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins:
"“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back, and they know that they have mine as well,” Harden said. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”"
With Russell Westbrook gaining ground in the MVP race, the Beard going back on his word would all but put icing on the cake. (On a somewhat unrelated note, putting in a game-winner against the Mavs should not help Russ’s case for MVP. Recency bias is a real thing, along with Westbrook bias. Ugh.) With the MVP in mind, Harden has no intent to rest, even though it could hurt Houston’s playoff chances in the long run.
If you don’t believe me, take it from Harden himself. After last night’s loss, he again talked to Calvin Watkins:
"“It’s pretty tough, man, I’m not going to lie,” said Harden, who has played in all 74 of the Rockets’ games this season. “I don’t like to feel sorry for myself at all, but just the shot is short and frustrating when you can’t really follow through and whatnot. I’m going to continue to go out there and do my best…”"
James Harden has a tough decision to make. On one hand, the Rockets have a real chance to compete for a title. They lost to the Warriors by seven points despite shooting just 38% from the floor. A healthy Harden and Ryan Anderson would change things completely–the Rockets can compete with anybody when they’re hitting shots.
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On the other hand, the Beard is a competitor. He feels strongly that it’s his duty to play every night, and he surely cares about the MVP as well. If he rests at all after saying what he said, people could second guess their vote.
As a Rockets fan, I would love to see Harden to take a break. However, I trust him to make the right choice for the team, whatever that is. He knows himself and wants to win, and will do what it takes to put his team in the best position possible.
The Houston Rockets have two big games this week, playing the Portland Trail Blazers and the Warriors again in a back-to-back road trip.
No matter what decision he makes, it’ll make headlines this week.
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