James Harden: Double-teams mean ‘I’m doing something right’
Most NBA teams have resigned themselves to the fact that James Harden is essentially an unstoppable offensive force, which means they have no choice but to employ double-teams against the former MVP. As Harden sees it, frequent utilization of such defensive tactics against him is a sign of respect.
The Denver Nuggets consistently double-teamed Harden in the first half of Tuesday’s game, which helped limit the Rockets superstar to only seven shots. The Rockets exploited the focus on Harden by going off for 69 first-half points — led by Russell Westbrook putting up 18 — on the way to a 130-104 victory.
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, acknowledging that while it is “probably frustrating” for Harden to face double-teams so often, the Rockets star ought to “take it as a sign of huge respect.” Harden agrees.
“For sure,” Harden said, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “Me and Coach [Mike] D’Antoni talk about it all the time. That means that I’m doing something right, [that] I’m pretty good.”
Harden ultimately got his looks once the Nuggets deviated from their double-team strategy in the second half, and he capitalized, scoring 35 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the win.
Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni emphasized after the game that opponents will pay for double-teaming Harden if other players on the floor take advantage of the extra space.
“We’ve seen it a thousand times. Every game,” D’Antoni said. “Guys were making some shots. We’re getting more comfortable with it. Russell was really good. It shouldn’t work in theory. If you just double [Harden], he throws it to Russell and it’s 4-on-3. We should score every time. … We’re not surprised by it. They don’t rush. You know, you see something that’s kind of odd. Now it’s not odd, so we should be able to handle it.”
Harden is said to have been sensitive in the past to how his style of play — which some refer to as “Hero Ball” — is perceived as unappealing by his harshest critics. It would appear given his recent comments that one of the best offensive talents in league history is beginning to ignore all the noise.