This season is the most important one in James Harden’s Rockets career

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets have been inconsistent so far. After so many disappointing ends to recent seasons, it’s time for James Harden to take over.

Going into this season, there were plenty of questions pertaining to the new-look Houston Rockets. Will Russell Westbrook be a good fit in Coach Mike D’Antoni‘s system? Can James Harden and Westbrook reignite that Oklahoma City Thunder chemistry they once had? Can the new superstar backcourt lead the Rockets to a championship? Last but not least, can this be the season in which Harden proves all of his doubters wrong?

Harden has a history of not showing up big when it matters most in the playoffs. Year after year, we witness sudden collapses, to the point where sometimes it’s felt like there is an impostor wearing number 13. Seven straight playoff appearances, seven straight failures. By now, it’s nothing new for Rockets fans to deal with; it’s just a yearly ritual to most. This year can be an exception, though, if James wants it to be.

This is the year James Harden needs to prove himself more than ever in the playoffs. It’s not really shocking to most that James is having another great regular season — it’s expected every year. But can the Beard put an end to the doubters and critics when it pertains to his postseason play?

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As the team looks to get things turned around after a bad loss in Portland, it’s now up to Harden to take it from here. That doesn’t mean shoot 17 threes per contest, but just be the leader the team can count on when it matters most. Following the All-Star break, if the Rockets still sit at the fifth seed heading to the playoffs, it’s won’t be a good look for them considering their expectations to start the season.

If the Los Angeles Lakers stay at the first seed while Houston stays put, there is a chance the Rockets will be heading to LA in the second round. This is the worst-case scenario for the Rockets, due to the Lakers being far superior in size.

This won’t happen, though, if Harden leads the Rockets to at least a top-three seed. The pressure is on for Harden to finally show he has what it takes when the going gets tough, and it all begins with the second half of the season. If he can lead Houston to a top 3 seed and a successful playoff run that ends in an NBA championship, the most important season in Harden’s career will be deemed a success.

At this point, it’s championship or bust for the Beard, or major changes will need to be made going into next season. The Houston Rockets are currently 29-18, which now has them at the sixth seed in the wild, wild Western Conference. They can move back up to fifth, however, with a win against the Mavericks on Friday.

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A big victory against Luka Doncic and the division rival Mavericks would be a big step in the right direction for James Harden and the Rockets.