Houston Rockets: A retrospective of the James Harden era

By James Piercey
Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
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James Harden, Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics / Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

James Harden and the Houston Rockets had their detractors

From 2016 to 2021, they, the basketball media, NBA fans, all of them, hated the Rockets.

They hated Houston's disregard of longstanding basketball assumptions in favor of cold, unfeeling data. They hated Houston's regular filing for reevaluations of game outcomes. Most of all, they hated watching Harden pound the air out of the ball. I didn’t blame them: I always said I’d hate it too if I didn’t have to love it. But if you had to love it, man…you loved it.

With a razor-sharp focus on the numbers, it was easy to think Harden and his Rockets took the art out of basketball and made it science. That wasn’t accurate: Harden was basketball’s first postmodernist. Function over style. Result over form. Ball movement is a social construct. Why move the ball when one man can, with devastating frequency, move it into the basket for himself or a teammate?

Game six of 2017 Western Conference Semifinals: 10 points on 2-11 shooting, 7 assists, 6 turnovers. 114-75, Spurs.

(27 missed threes).