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.