While the focus has been on when and where Harden gets traded, Howard Beck at Sports Illustrated said the real question is will Harden make the sacrifices needed to win a ring in his new home? Plenty of team executives are not convinced (part of what is slowing the trade market for him).
“I don’t think he is,” says a veteran executive with an Eastern Conference team. “James is like Allen Iverson: He wants to win his way and put up historical numbers while he’s winning. I would never question their desire to win, but they all want to win on their terms.”
A Western Conference exec echoed those doubts, saying, “It’s hard for me to envision him playing any other way,” although he added, “I’m not sure if that’s him or the Rockets” insisting on that style.
Harden is unquestionably one of the great scorers the game has ever seen, a three-time league scoring champ and MVP who has averaged more than 30 points a game the past three seasons, and is at 33 a night so far this season. He can get to the rim, drain a step-back three, has a full range of moves, and is generally one of the league’s hardest covers.
However, getting to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy requires more than moves. Winning a ring means being willing to up touches and points for the team’s greater good — just ask Kevin Durant (when he was in Golden State) or Dwyane Wade in Miami or any of the Duncan-era Spurs stars (and the list goes on and on). Harden has played one way, in total control, for the past eight years in Houston, running off a series of high-profile teammates in the process.
Whenever and wherever he gets traded, Harden will undoubtedly say all the right things about putting the team first and wanting to win more than anything. But will he give up touches to Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn?Feed Joel Embiid in the post in crunch time in Philadelphia? Play nice with Jayson Tatum in Boston? Actions will speak louder than words.