#3 Houston Rockets: Look for James Harden playing hard
The Rockets only have nine available players for tonight’s game and one of them, James Harden, has made it abundantly clear that he would like to play for a different team. The Rockets need Harden to play hard tonight if they’re going to have any chance against a Trail Blazers’ team that believes it can finish in the top-six of a crowded Western Conference field.
When Harden is engaged and focused on the court he is one of the best players on the planet and even when he’s mailing it in he can go for 35 points with ease. A half-engaged Harden only gives the Rockets a half-chance because when he’s lethargic it’s his defense, not his offense, that tends to suffer.
The Trail Blazers have a deadly offense that demands a team’s full attention and any lack of focus on that end could see the Rockets blown out. The Rockets will be without John Wall, which will put pressure on Harden to create and score in abundance.
Harden doesn’t just need to play hard on both ends of the court for the Rockets to win but for him to get his wish to land on a serious contender. The Rockets have asked for the sun, the moon, and the stars in trade talks for Harden but so far teams have rebuffed their asking price.
The going rate for a player of Harden’s quality is incredibly high and interested suitors know this. It’s likely that the teams who have been in contact with the Rockets over Harden are waiting for them to blink first and lower their price.
How Harden comes out and plays will go a long way in determining how soon he is moved. If he’s excellent and engaged then there becomes no reasonable way to offer less than he’s worth through trade.
However, if he’s lethargic and plays poorly then the Rockets will have to wait until any of their trade partners become desperate themselves. It might be the first game of the season but for the sake of the franchise and his future, Harden needs to come out and play hard.
Next: Thing to look for No. 2