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James Harden reportedly ‘sensitive’ to player criticism of his game

James Harden is enjoying a remarkable scoring run amid an outstanding, MVP-caliber season, but the Houston Rockets superstar has not been immune to criticism over his “hero ball” style of play.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the criticism levied at Harden, especially from fellow NBA players, is disconcerting for the Rockets guard.

Windhorst, making an appearance Wednesday on the “Hoop Collective” podcast, not only addressed Harden’s purported unhappiness but also how some NBA players are “irritated” by how the reigning MVP seems to get away with things on the court most others do not.

“And then I can just say, off the record, again, nobody’s saying this guy stinks. They all recognize he’s awesome, but there is a real irritation with at least a segment,” Windhorst said. “I can’t say everybody, but at least a segment of players who are irritated that they think he gets away with traveling, and they think that he gets away with foul-baiting, and they don’t like that he plays such isolation. … Harden, he’s a little bit sensitive about this. He was a little bit sensitive in an interview with Rachel Nichols, in a sit-down. And then I can just tell you, I went to his interview session and he was sensitive about it at his interview session at All-Star [Weekend], too.”

Windhorst makes mention of Harden’s recent interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, during which Harden admitted it is “kind of hard” to hear criticism from ex-NBA players, including Kobe Bryant and Scottie Pippen, about his style of play.

Harden additionally defended himself by arguing how he has had to play in such a manner due to the litany of injuries the Rockets have endured this season.

In the midst of a stretch of mind-boggling basketball, Harden has scored at least 30 points in 31 consecutive games, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest such streak in NBA history. The Rockets are 21-10 in those games, so the case can be made that while Harden’s style of play may not be aesthetically pleasing, it’s undoubtedly effective.