No, this is not an excuse for how flat-footed and slow his defense has been this season.
However it appears James Harden is hurt — he is day-to-day with a bruised foot tweets Jonathan Feigen of the the Houston Chronicle. Those tend not to keep people out long if at all, and against the Lakers he certainly was aggressive and attacking when he had the ball.
The Rockets play the Clippers Saturday in a rematch of last Monday’s game where Harden was a defensive mess — he was assigned to J.J. Redick early and the Clippers ran Redick off screens like he was vintage Ray Allen. Harden didn’t even try to fight through them. Redick ended up with 15 points in the first quarter and 26 for the game as the Clippers cruised to a win.
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Harden’s defense has been pretty bad all season, and it’s something the Rockets have to fix if they are serious about contending. Right now he is just reaching, not moving his feet. On offense he looks fine, he’s attacking and making plays. But to really take this team where they want to go Harden has to be better at both ends.
Dwight Howard played through torn MCL and meniscus in playoffs
Dwight Howard hasn’t exactly been healthy in recent years. He missed half of last season with various injuries, including a two-month stretch from January to March after undergoing a knee procedure. On Thursday, he told a Houston radio station that the knee problems continued after that, and he had torn ligaments and cartilage during the Rockets’ Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors:
Dwight Howard just told us on Texans Radio that he played through a torn MCL and meniscus during the WCF vs the Warriors
It’s a little alarming that we didn’t hear about this until now. Sometimes these injuries can heal without surgery, but Howard can become a free agent next summer, so you would think he would want to get any lingering issues addressed ahead of time. Considering his age (he’ll be 30 in December) and his injury history, this isn’t a great sign. A healthy Howard is the difference between the Rockets being a legitimate title contender and an als0-ran, so hopefully these problems are behind him and he can stay healthy this season.
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