James Harden is a veritable lightning rod for criticism. He’s been called selfish. He’s been accused of being a bad teammate and a coach-killer. And reveling in his lackadaisical defensive efforts has become one of America’s favorite pastimes. He’s quickly become one of the most unlikable stars in the league, and playing alongside the equally-unlikable Dwight Howard the past few seasons hasn’t helped his cause.
But it’s gotten so bad that some folks want to diminish his accomplishments on the basketball court. And it’s not just the fans. Despite posting up huge numbers this season, Harden failed to make an All-NBA team, and this after finishing second in MVP voting last season after logging eerily-similar numbers. But the Rockets were one of the most disappointing teams in 2016, and many saw that litany of aforementioned faults as one of, if not the, root cause of it.
It’s a different story, however, when it comes to the people who actually have to play against him on the basketball court. In fact, Harden was voted MVP by his peers at the first annual Players Awards last summer, and one former teammate now more than ever still thinks he doesn’t get his due.
Harden, however, appears poised for a bounce-back season. After jettisoning Howard, the organization didn’t make much of a splash in free agency this summer, but they added a few solid pieces (namely long-range sniper Ryan Anderson) who should help them in the win column.
With Harden recommitting to the team on a long-term contract extension and a new coach in Mike D’Antoni to revitalize a stagnate offense, the Rockets should rediscover at least a little bit of that swagger they showed two seasons ago when they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
For Harden, winning will likely be the only way to silence his critics.
(h/t Pro Basketball Talk)