That video is something of an NBA YouTube legend: More than 11 minutes of James Harden’s painful defensive flubs. The thing is, it doesn’t cover all of them, and one could have added to the video with moments of Harden’s play with Team USA this summer at the World Cup.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey hates that video and told Sam Amick of the USA Today just that (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“For whatever reason, it has taken on a life of its own,” Morey says about the criticism about Harden’s defense. “You’ve got people doing a 10-minute YouTube clip that everyone references, and I just ask anyone, ‘Take your worst 10 minutes from your job the last year and just take those worst 10 minutes and put them in a YouTube clip.’ I’m guessing it wouldn’t come out very well for anybody. That, to me, was completely unfair. That bothered me in a big way. Without context, you can grab 10 minutes of anyone and make them look like (expletive). I think reality TV proves that.”
Morey has a point… but only up to a point.
All the videos have led to the impression James Harden never plays defense, and that’s not true. He plays stretches of solid (not great, but solid) defense, but those never seem to last. It’s more a matter of focus and effort, he just doesn’t seem to care on that end.
Harden admitted to Amick he needs to focus more on his defense this season.
“It’s not a matter of whether I can or can’t play defense,” Harden says in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “It’s just a matter of me focusing for 48 minutes throughout a game and making sure that I’m always alert on both ends of the floor … It’s up to me to go out there and show my leadership, to show that I can play both ends of the floor at a high level and just do it. If I have that approach, we’re going to go a long ways.”
Harden has said that before this preseason. If the Rockets are going to take a step forward this season — win more than 54 games and get out of the first round of the playoffs — it’s going to take a defensively focused Harden.
Which is why nobody is really predicting that.