Did we just hear about James Harden pining away for a less isolation-based NBA offense?
Now, I don’t know the context of the conversation, but keen-eyed observers of this weekend’s 2019 All Star festivities caught a very interesting exchange between Stephen Curry and coach Budenholzer. It’s a little hard to hear and the conversation picks up mid-stream, but here’s the meat of what was said:
First thing he says is, ‘It’s fun, but I want to play different...I’m by myself whatever... hero ball.’
But people want him to play like that, versus a system where they all can play beautiful basketball with guys who know how to play.
Coach Bud: That’s interesting for you... for him to say that to you...
James Harden is putting up MVP-caliber numbers again this season. After winning the award last year, the Houston Rockets guard is leading the NBA in scoring with 36.6 points per game (to go along with 6.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists) while logging the second highest usage percentage of all time.
Twitter user @natefrancis00 was the one that posted the recording. Again, it’s a little hard to make out everything, but give it a listen:
But is it too much?
Harden is notorious for burning out in the playoffs and a lot of criticism against the uber-talented player is that he tries to do too much and then runs out of gas. Beyond that though, there’s a very Warriors-centric angle here as well.
And is Kerr-ball better?
Coach Steve Kerr is equally notorious - but for eschewing the isolation-based attacks that can be so effective for elite players. His philosophy is that letting all players be involved is more beneficial in the long run than any cost associated with getting slightly fewer points per possession because you aren’t just having Curry and Kevin Durant shoot it every single time. It doesn’t take much Google to find some vapid wistful dreaming about what Curry’s numbers would look like if he had Harden’s usage.
It’s a debate with no clear answer. Would a player like Kevon Looney be as effective within Houston’s system? How many more points would Curry score if Mike D’Antoni was his coach?
Another question I have, while listening to this (way too many times) in order to get the transcription at the top of this article is: are we sure this is James Harden he’s talking about?
As far as I can make out, the conversation starts with something about “James” coming back (?) and how Curry was complimenting him on everything he’s done. It’s the “back” part that has me wondering if it’s actually LeBron James who’s being discussed here. Harden hasn’t missed any playing time, or all star games, so I don’t think it fits. And don’t get me started on questioning if a statement like this is even in character for James Harden - it does seem quite on brand for LeBron James though, doesn’t it?
Regardless, it’s inside looks like this that set the NBA apart.