Are playoff woes to blame for making Houston Rockets superstar James Harden not feel accomplished?
James Harden has been a dominant NBA player since his rookie year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in just his third season. Along with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Harden was able to help the Thunder reach the NBA Finals that same season but ultimately lost to the Miami Heat. Harden wanted to finish his career with his friends in OKC, however, the Thunder’s front office decided to give Serge Ibaka a huge payday instead, which eventually caused the front office to trade him to the Houston Rockets.
Coming to Houston forced Harden to become a leader on the court. Harden rose to the occasion by earning an All-Star appearance and leading the Rockets to the playoffs. People adored Harden for his unorthodox playing style and, of course, how good his beard looked. In the 2014-2015 season, Harden had a good case for MVP but fell short of Steph Curry. Even though Harden fell short in the MVP race, his dominance was starting to show in the NBA. Harden was able to lead the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals against Curry’s Warriors that season but again lost in five games. After another disappointing finish, the trend of questioning The Beard’s defense and leadership began to pick up steam.
Two seasons later, Harden made another push for NBA MVP but lost again, this time to Russell Westbrook. In the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals, Harden struggled against the San Antonio Spurs, particularly in fourth quarters. The way Harden finished that series caused the city of Houston to be confused. The NBA world continued to question if Harden was the right superstar for the Rockets, especially due to his lack of effort on defense.
For the following two seasons, Harden proved a lot on the court with his effortless play. He finally won MVP in the 2018 season, but again fell short in the playoffs against the juggernaut known as the Warriors. The following season, there were times where Harden appeared to struggle to get along with Paul in a rematch against the Warriors. Even with a Durant injury, Golden State was still able to topple Houston once again, further frustrating James and the Rockets heading into this season.
Expectations for the future
James Harden recently sat down with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report to discuss his accomplishments, or lack thereof, so far in his NBA career. First and foremost, obviously his main focus is to win multiple championships with the Rockets. Harden is a seven-time NBA All-Star, has made the All-NBA First Team NBA five times, and has won a gold medal with Team USA. Still, all of these accomplishments mean nothing to him without a championship. Harden had this to say regarding what he wants his legacy to be when speaking to Beck:
“I still haven’t accomplished half of what I want to accomplish. Like, multiple championships. I want to be one of those basketball players that you won’t forget. And obviously, we all remember the Kobes and the Jordans and the D-Wades and all those guys. I want to be in that same conversation, obviously, in championships and all that good stuff, and best shooting guards to ever play the game.”
Harden has now reunited with Westbrook once again on the Rockets and is confident that Westbrook can give Houston that extra push in the playoffs.
“I’m more excited to go into war, postseason, with somebody that is, like, a dog,” he said. “Somebody that’s a killer, for real.”
The NBA is now wide-open since Durant left the Warriors. The main question is, paired again with another superstar, can Harden finally rise to the occasion this season?
If The Beard is serious about his legacy, the time to win is now.