The Houston Rockets are getting Dwight Howard back for the stretch run heading into the postseason, but don’t expect James Harden to take his foot off the gas.
Harden and the big fella spoke about their respective roles, and Howard (who missed more than two months with a gimpy right knee) told his All-Star teammate to keep playing at his MVP-caliber level.
Back together. pic.twitter.com/2GGXOqMMSC
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 25, 2015
Harden is the NBA’s second-leading scorer (27.2 ppg) and plans to keep firing away.
Per USA Today:
“He said, ‘I’ll be returning soon, but I don’t want you to change your game,” Harden said Tuesday. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to do anything different. Just go out there and do what you do, and do it at a high level every single night.’ He said, ‘I’ll adjust to you,’ and that right there gave me confidence to just play, and play my game and not worry about anything else. Once you hear that from your other leader, then you know you can just go out there and play the way that I’ve been playing. […] I definitely needed to hear that, and he told it to me. So right there that gave me all the confidence in the world, not to try to force it to get him into a rhythm or try to do anything forceful. I can just play my game. Him telling me that just gave me the green light to just go out there and just be the James Harden that I’ve been being all season.”
“I knew he was going to come back soon, so we had to have a meeting about what was going on — what he needed from me, what I needed from him,” Harden continued. “JET (Jason Terry) is one of the leaders also. He has won championships (2011 with the Dallas Mavericks). He has that experience. I always listen to him, and get feedback from him. That was probably one of the best meetings that I’ve had, just knowing that my big guy has confidence in me. We’ll go out there and try to compete as a team together.”
The most surprising part, at least on the surface, is that their defense has been so dominant without Howard (they’re fourth in point allowed per 100 possessions at 103.5 after finishing just 12th last season). Still, Harden — true to their agreed-upon form — will be the one driving this welcome-back wagon. […] “I’m excited to have him back,” Harden said of Howard, who is averaging 16.3 points, 11 rebounds and 1.4 blocks this season. “He’s definitely a key part of our team and where we want to go. I think while he was out, we were just trying to stay above water and try to just maintain, try to give other guys an opportunity to play. And we’ve done that, so just to get him back would be great for us for these last 12 games so we can get some chemistry and some camaraderie going into the postseason.”