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Daryl Morey defends James Harden’s iso-heavy play with Kareem comparison

James Harden has long been dogged for his “Hero Ball” style of play, and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has yet again come to the superstar’s defense over the ongoing criticism.

The narrative that Harden relies too heavily on isolation plays is perhaps the only knock on the reputation of arguably the greatest offensive force of this NBA era, not to mention among the best of all time.

Morey deflected criticism over Harden’s iso-heavy offense by suggesting no one held it against one of the greatest players in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“Nobody was mad when Kareem was getting it dozens of times per game,” Morey said, per Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN.

Further, Morey contends that Harden receives a worse rap over his style of play because he is a guard, not a big man.

“There’s a long-held basketball perception that the guy who holds the ball initially shouldn’t shoot,” he said. “Even when you play pickup, there’s a rule that the guy who checks it in can’t shoot.”

Harden relies on isolation plays to create offense for himself with unparalleled frequency when compared to his NBA superstar counterparts. Over 50% of Harden’s points are generated off isolation plays. What’s more, Harden is averaging 18.5 isolation plays per game this season, according to Second Spectrum data.

To put that in perspective, no other player has averaged more than 12 iso plays per game in a season since 2013-14, the furthest back data has been compiled for that metric.

That said, Harden is remarkably efficient when it comes to his iso-heavy game.

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James Harden is the king of the iso

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As noted, this is not the first time Morey has gone to bat for Harden amid such criticisms, and it merits noting that the superstar has admitted the chatter bothers him at times.

Regardless of the persistent outside noise, though, Harden is in the midst of a truly incredible season. Averaging an astounding 38.9 points per game, Harden is on track to notch his third consecutive scoring title.