James Harden’s defensive shortcomings aren’t new and they’ve become more than a meme or a viral sensation. It’s a part of the Rockets oeuvre now, especially after Houston came out in the ’15-’16 season and crapped the bed after so much promise from last year’s No. 2 seed and a Conference Finals appearance. During the Rockets’ big Sunday night win over the East’s No. 2 seed this season, the Raptors, Harden again appeared to drift off on defense, barely moving as DeMar DeRozan drove right past him in the final two minutes of a tight game (the Rockets led by two at that point).
Deadspin had some fun with it, as you’d expect, but even ESPN got in on the action with a dated reference to a Kansas song off their ’77 album, Point of Know Return. Looking past the homophone, that album title goes a long way towards explaining what can be so infuriating about the guy with the Beard who used to date Khloe Kardashian, has a big new deal with adidas and doesn’t seem to give a sh*t when he’s on the defensive side of the court.
Despite a herculean effort to get the Rockets so far last year (remember, Dwight missed a huge portion of the regular season), Beard will always be the the defensive sieve with the analytically accurate offensive game.
And the same thing happened Sunday night: Harden was 11-for-20 from the field for 40 points. That’s 40 points on 20 shots, people; that is elite. He also had 14 dimes and just one turnover.