Despite his wrist obviously bothering him, James Harden has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to rest. Is that a good or bad thing?
In a few hours, the Houston Rockets will tip off against the Golden State Warriors for the second time in four days. They’re on a West Coast road trip on the second night of a back-to-back, Ryan Anderson is still out nursing a sprained ankle, and James Harden‘s wrist hurts. Even the most optimistic fan would have to admit that the odds do not seem to be in Houston’s favor for tonight.
The silver lining in the bleak situation is the Rockets’ season won’t be affected negatively if they do end up losing. After tonight, they only have one game left against a team with a winning record. They’ll finish the season by taking on the likes of the Suns, Pistons, and Kings, among other non-playoff-bound clubs. Considering they’re five games ahead of the fourth seed, it’s not likely that they fall back in the standings.
That begs one question then: why is James Harden suiting up? It would make sense on many levels for the Beard to take a night off and let his wrist get better, but he’s not interested in doing so.
I like James Harden’s dedication to his team. Last year, he probably wished he had a reason to miss games. He wants to have his teammates’ backs now, though, and that’s a good thing. He seems to be the non-vocal leader of the locker room (Patrick Beverley is definitely the vocal leader), and that role requires setting a good example. By doing what it takes to be out on the floor, the Beard sets the standard for the group. Unless you really can’t play, you play.
His insistence on suiting up also shows a competitive edge that hasn’t always been there. Kobe Bryant wisely noted recently that Harden has added an emotional level to his game this season. He’s always been a great basketball player, but he seems to care now more than ever. His attitude of “I’m going to play because I love basketball and I want to win, and you can’t stop me” is infectious, even to fans.
In a league where every team, especially every playoff team, is capable of playing great basketball, mentality is important. If Harden were to jump on every opportunity to take nights off, that mindset would leak over to his teammates. To sum up the pros of not resting, it sends a message to his team, to his fans, and to the league that he cares too much to sit idly by.
The cons are a little bit more obvious. The playoffs are right around the corner, and the Rockets need a healthy James Harden to succeed. Even though they’re predicted by essentially everybody to get out of the first round with ease, the team has their sights set on more. The Beard is at the heart of Houston’s offense, and the team has no chance at the finals unless he’s perfectly healthy.
In the worst-case scenario, these few games of playing through the pain could have implications that last far beyond this season. If Harden ignoring this wrist injury causes it to heals improperly and it turns it into one of those nagging issues, then refusing to rest could go down as the worst decision in his career. That isn’t likely, but it’s something a superstar in the beginning of his prime should have in mind.
This is also a stretch, but Harden refusing to rest could paint him in a negative light. Fans could see it as him caring about personal accolades more than his team winning. He recently stated that playing in all 82 games should matter to MVP voters. With that out in the open, he’s got to be acutely aware of what him resting could do to his MVP campaign. Russell Westbrook, his biggest competition for the award, has also played every game so far this season. I don’t personally believe that this whole debacle is an attempt to be crowned MVP, but it’s not too wild a thought.
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If I could offer my advice to James Harden, I’d have him rest a couple of games. I don’t think his teammates would question his leadership if he let himself get healthy. It could also be beneficial for the Rockets to go through a game or two without the Beard to lean on.
However, it doesn’t appear that Harden will let his team have that experience. He hasn’t wavered on his staunch belief that he should play, and that probably won’t change. As a Rockets fan, I’m both proud of him for sticking to his guns and worried for how it’ll affect his playoff aspirations. At the end of the day, I obviously have no say in the matter. All I can do is appreciate Harden’s greatness, rest or no rest.
As the playoffs draw nearer, Space City Scoop will continue to pump out more analysis, news, and opinions on the Houston Rockets, so stay tuned. Follow us on Twitter at @SpaceCityScoop!