The James Harden Mystery rolls on
Yesterday, Tim Legler said James Harden will always have that unexplainable Game 6 performance attached to his name until he wins a ring. Is that an overreaction to what we saw?
Mallory Stith-Wheat: No. Video doesn’t lie. James Harden’s character is in question now. He taught us to think of him as a top-5 player and many put him above Westbrook for MVP and then he just disappears. It is similar to that LeBron James game in the Garden in 2010. Harden has to win a title.
Brendan Gillespie: You wanna know how bad it was? My mother was texting me. She was asking did someone drug him before the game. My mother said that. So you know how bad he looked. Like he just wasn’t there. Like he got punched before the game. It was a sad performance and the bottom line is, forget all the excuses, he didn’t show up and that will stick to him.
C.J. Hampshire: Everything in this social media age is about overreaction but that catastrophe was deserved. Harden has a reputation that preceded him. The pressure was on. He had to make up for being pathetic in overtime of Game 5 and, stupid me, I expected him to just go out and fire. Harden has been 9-27 before. Why not when you need it the most? The Rockets needed a star. They needed a hero.
Julian Billick: Home teams in elimination games are 1-9 this postseason. There is something to be said for having an edge, for going out on the road and taking it. Legler didn’t overreact. If you watched that game closely Harden passed up shots. There was no sense of urgency. The Rockets offense isn’t brain surgery. Pick and roll threes and layups. He passed on open threes. He drove to the rim and dribbled layups out of bounds. It looked like he didn’t want to shoot,like he didn’t want to be there.
Last night, John Wall put on a slightly different performance. Was he affected, do you think, by Harden, the ghost?
C.J.: How could he not be? It was the only NBA story trending. Wall, as a point guard, knows the pressure of having to score and at the same time get your team into sets plus set the pace and tone. He didn’t score well in the first half but he did what had to be done.
Mallory: So if I told you a couple of days ago that Houston and Washington would face elimination at home and one point guard would hit a game winning three, you’d say James Harden, you’d put money on it.
Julian: Wall has had a brilliant postseason in a career year where he has established himself as a top-10 player among active players and he is sneaking on that best point guard list. He didn’t start the game but he finished. He has help in Bradley Beal so even if he was frozen like Harden he has someone who can take over.
Brendan: Wall was everything we wanted Harden to be. Did you catch his post-game with Lisa Salters. He came hard talking about not having a funeral, and this was his house, and having double knee surgeries he was not going to let this moment pass. He had heart. Harden didn’t.
Mike D’Antoni said Harden was tired and maybe he needs rest. Buying the excuse?
Mallory: No. We’ve all seen tired players give everything. What about Jordan and the flu game?
C.J.: Props to D’Antoni for having his player’s back.
Brendan: Tired, perhaps. Too tired to play? I’m sorry correct me if I’m wrong, were the Rockets in the NBA Finals last year? Was Harden in the Olympics? Were they in the Western Conference Finals? No. They lost in the first round. Next.
Julian: Let it go. The damage is done. Six straight NBA Finals and then you can say you are tired.
Bigger Star: James Harden or John Wall?
Mallory: John Wall has been vilified because he was the number one pick and he came from Kentucky and everyone thought he’d get here a few years ago. The expectations for Wall have always been through the roof. Harden has been under the radar. He didn’t have the pressure. But after what we saw on Thursday, and particularly if Wall gets the Wizards to the Conference Finals, I’d say he is the bigger star.
Julian: Harden is the bigger star. He’s been in the NBA Finals. had the short lived dominance of the OKC Big Three. He has the beard thing going. But John Wall is the better player. Now that he has figured out how to shoot, and as they revealed last night, Sam Cassell taught him how to change directions, and with his defense, he is more versatile than Harden. But he’ll never average close to 30 like Harden. We love scoring so Harden wins the star question.
Brendan: Wall has a chip on his shoulder. He feels disrespected because of all the struggles he has had the last few years, all the haters and doubters about his game. So there is this energy he plays with, like he is just trying to prove people wrong. Harden has more offensive talent. He is so smooth, so carefree out there. He can score from anywhere on the perimeter and he gets to the line more than anyone. But Thursday night showed a weakness of his: mental toughness. Wall has had to be mentally tough. He’s had a much tougher career. He didn’t play with Kevin Durant.
C.J.: They both cancel each other out, both are big stars. Harden this year recovered his reputation and had he done what he was supposed to do two nights ago, this would not be a discussion. But Harden froze and Wall did not. If Wall’s team goes farther, then he has created his name and his fame in the playoffs and Harden will forever be questioned. Wall is a better leader right now, hands down. And he is killing it from the perimeter in the playoffs and Harden’s three ball game was ugly.
What are the odds John Wall’s game 7 is anywhere close to James Harden’s Game 6?
Brendan: 1%. Wall is coming off a game winner. He is going to be confident and aggressive. I don’t see him being scared of the moment. Plus he has an extra day off.
C.J.: Even if Wall doesn’t shoot well he is going to come at it hard. This is the closest he has been to a conference final. Harden has been to the NBA Finals. He doesn’t have Wall’s hunger.
Julian: 0%. He’s in the Garden. He’ll show up. It doesn’t mean the Wizards will win but he’ll be an impact player.
Mallory: I wish it was 70% because i don’t want the Wizards to play the Cavs but no chance he disappears. None.
photo via llananba