James Harden pooh-poohs the idea that opposing teams can exploit him defensively.
“Come try it,” Harden dares, adding that his heavy workload and Houston’s switching defense give teams the false impression he can be a target.
The Rockets’ ultra small-ball attack has thrived, and their MVP believes they have enough to compete for an NBA title:
“I’m a competitor. I’m a beast,” Harden said. “Whatever teams’ schemes are, we switch everything, and they’ve got to find a way to attack us. It’s not going to be perfect. Some guys are going to score on me. That’s a part of the game, but more times than not, we’re going to get a stop and they’ll shy away from it.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo eagerly reminded people of Harden’s defensive reputation after the All-Star Game, blurting out after his team’s come-from-ahead loss that their strategy during the fourth quarter was “just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding.”
“You can’t try to play matchup basketball,” a Western Conference head coach said. “That’s what they want. You have to beat them with [ball] movement.”
Harden hopes teams take Antetokounmpo’s advice and make picking on him the focal point of their game plan. “Come try it,” Harden said, “and the s— won’t work.”