Rockets’ Eddie Johnson: Harden wasn’t good enough to start in OKC

James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Former Houston Rockets forward Eddie Johnson doesn’t believe James Harden was good enough to start for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Prior to James Harden‘s arrival to the Houston Rockets, he was a reserve for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden wasn’t just any ordinary bench player, he was the top reserve in the league, as he won Sixth Man of the Year in 2012.

Harden was also selected to the 2012 USA Olympic team, which was yet another example of how he was one of the best young players in the league. The Beard especially played stellar for the Thunder during their 2012 journey to the NBA Finals, as he averaged 18 points in two of OKC’s first three Western Conference matchups.

During the Western Conference Finals, Harden proved to be a problem for the San Antonio Spurs, as he averaged 18.5 points per game, which was second-best on the Thunder behind only Kevin Durant. During that series, Harden made an incredible 60.9 percent of his 3-pointers and had an effective field goal percentage of 58.9 percent, which was higher than Durant.

It’s obvious that Harden could’ve started for the Thunder, as they always had him on the floor during the fourth quarter, and especially when they were trying to close out an opponent. But not everyone agrees with that, case in point former Houston Rockets forward Eddie Johnson.

Former Rockets forward Eddie Johnson shares why James Harden didn’t start in Oklahoma City.

On Monday, Johnson was on his show NBA Today, which airs on Sirius XM radio, and had the below to say.

“Harden wasn’t good enough to start in OKC because of what they had.”

Although this quote draws an immediate Harden eyeroll, this is an interesting comment from Johnson, who knows a thing or two about being a sixth man. Johnson won Sixth Man of the Year during the 1988-89 season, as he beat out Thurl Bailey and Dennis Rodman to take home the award.

But Harden was definitely good enough to start for the Thunder, as he had more to offer than Thabo Sefolosha, who was starting over him because of his strengths on the defensive end. Harden coming off the bench was more of a reflection of his ability to create offense, which then coach Scott Brooks felt would impact the team more without the presence of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook always on the floor.

But as stated earlier, when the game was in crunch time, Harden was always on the floor for the Thunder. Johnson’s perspective is possibly how Thunder GM Sam Presti felt, as he tried to force Harden into signing a less-than-max contract in 2012.

This ultimately caused OKC to lose a Hall of Fame talent and one of the game’s few superstars, as Harden shined immediately upon joining the Rockets.  Johnson has become a bit of an enemy towards the Rockets fanbase, as he’s feuded with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey and complained about the Rockets’ style of play.

Johnson also griped about Harden’s high scoring totals earlier in the season, although The Beard’s efficiency has been astronomical, as his true shooting percentage is 61.6 percent, which matches his 2018-19 campaign.

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But overall Johnson is especially wrong in this case, as Harden was certainly “good enough to start” in Oklahoma City.