Associated Press

James Harden on critics: “They talk too much about fouls and not the actual greatness” of his game

Leave a comment

There are a lot of people who just don’t like to watch James Harden play basketball.

They get that it is effective, you can’t deny the numbers: In his last 12 games, Harden has averaged 40.1 points with a crazy-good 64 true shooting percentage, plus 9 assists and 6.6 rebounds per contest. He’s dragged the Rockets to an 11-1 record in those games, the team up into the playoffs, and himself into the MVP conversation.

But it’s not graceful, not always fluid. Watching Harden is not like watching Stephen Curry drain 28-foot threes or Giannis Antetokounmpo attack the rim. It’s a lot of free throws and isolation dribbling, a lot of flopping and selling calls. Harden is the master at drawing fouls — he swings his arms into the contact and throws his head back to accentuate the blow — but is strong enough to score through the hits. Harden is propelling his current run with threes, averaging 17.2 attempts a game in his last five (23 against the Warriors), hitting 43 percent of them. He pushes the envelope and gets the job done, but it’s not the beautiful game.

So the critics come out, and it’s usually with the complaint, “why does he get all these foul calls?” Harden responded after he dropped 44 on the Warriors including a three in OT to get the win.

Harden is great — and drawing fouls is a skill. It’s one Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant and LeBron James and others have as well, Harden is simply the best at it and uses it the most. He forces the contact and makes sure he’s fouled — that’s part of the game.

Harden has grown frustrated in the postseason when the referees let guys play a little more — last season Harden’s free throw rate plummeted (by percentage) and he got to the line more than three fewer times a game. That’s the part of the game Harden must adapt to.

Harden’s game, however, is much more than fouls. It’s the best step back going (even if he travels on it now and again), his hesitation moves are sublime, and he just has an “old man at the Y” quality to his game that is old-school. It’s to be appreciated and admired.

Even if it’s not always pretty.

Devin Booker tries to meet Gorgui Dieng in locker room after both get ejected (VIDEO)

1 Comment

NBA players like to talk a big game about getting into fights with one another. It rarely actually happens, and when things get a little too heated sometimes we get a little extracurricular activity that helps us weave the tapestry that is the story of the NBA.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, Gorgui Dieng and Devin Booker decided to have a little chat with one another. The two got into a jawing match after a play in the third quarter when Dieng elbowed Booker in the face.

Booker took exception to that and decided to start flapping his gums at Dieng. Both were ejected after official review, and as they exited to opposite sides of the floor, Booker appeared to make eye contact with Dieng and accept an offer to meet him in the concourse under the stands that lead to the locker rooms.

The Suns guard then had to be restrained from running at full speed to meet Dieng.

Via Twitter:

Devin Booker vs. Gorgui Dieng is the bitter rivalry you didn’t know you needed.

Report: Anthony Davis fears fractured finger, could be out up to a month

Leave a comment

New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis hurt his hand against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier last week. Initial reports had Davis missing 1-2 weeks with a sprained finger.

Now it appears things could be much worse.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday night that Davis could be facing a potential fracture in his left index finger. If that’s the case, Davis could miss anywhere from 2-4 weeks with a more serious injury.

Via Twitter:

The Pelicans cannot afford to have Davis out for that amount of time. The team has not met expectations this season, and are struggling to stay in playoff contention as we near the All-Star break.

If Davis is going to miss significant time, now is probably the best place in the NBA calendar. The real problem is that the Pelicans won’t be able to stay afloat without him. Even with Davis on the floor, New Orleans has struggled to win recent games against top Western Conference opponents like the Blazers and Golden State Warriors.

It’s probably too much to extrapolate this into what this could mean for Davis staying with the Pelicans, but it’s natural to wonder whether a missed postseason could push Davis to ask for a trade out of Louisiana.

If he’s not on the floor, the Pelicans probably aren’t winning games without Davis. That could spell disaster for their playoff hopes, and in turn, alter the future of the franchise.

Kevin Durant challenged Draymond Green to better control his emotions

Leave a comment

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has often let his emotions get the better of him. Green famously missed Game 5 of the NBA finals in 2016 after he repeatedly kicked LeBron James in the crotch.

Meanwhile, things have been heated in the Golden State locker room like never before. It’s bubbled over to the public sphere, with Kevin Durant and Green seemingly at odds at different times during this year.

Things seem to have studied in the meantime, particularly after Stephen Curry returned to the lineup At the beginning of December. But Durant and Green are still trying to find a way to work together to win another championship in the Bay Area.

According to a story from The Athletic, that meant a challenge from Durant to Green to maintain his emotions and to keep himself in check.

Via The Athletic:

Durant told Green he wasn’t accepting the emotional excuse. Green’s fire is what makes him great even if it also makes him volatile. But Durant wasn’t buying that it’s uncontrollable. He’s seen Green control it. He’s seen him keep his composure in the crucible of championship stakes. He’s seen him locked in and focused, forcing his emotions to submit to his will.

So Durant challenged him to be better. Green accepted.

Green has had a down year and it’s not clear Why that is. Is he simply aging? Or is this more due to the internal strife in the Warriors locker room?

No matter what, Golden State will need a semblance of the old Draymond Green to win NBA title this year. This agreeent between the two stars should be helpful both in healing their wounds and moving toward their shared goal.

These guys might not ever fully reconcile, but another championship ring could act as a salve.

Paul George joined Knicks fans in cheering for Raymond Felton (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

There’s not much to cheer about at Madison Square Garden these days. Kristaps Porzingis is still not playing for the New York Knicks, and it’s not clear whether the team will land a big free agent like Kevin Durant this summer or strike out and continue their run of dismal play.

As such, it makes sense that New York fans are trying to keep themselves entertained, and that includes during Knicks games.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town on Monday night, fans in Manhattan found themselves cheering for a former Knicks player on the Thunder bench. With the game out of reach, it only seemed appropriate.

In the fourth quarter, MSG started a chant for Raymond Felton, who played for the Knicks for three seasons over two stays. As cheers rained down from the stands, even Paul George got involved in the action.

Via Twitter:

George scored 31 points as the Thunder rolled New York, 127-109.