Harden: 'Obviously this is a new role for me'
James Harden's been a vocal leader in his first year with the Rockets. He's also been leading by example.
This season's been an adjustment for Harden, who rose from his sixth-man-of-the-year role with the Thunder to becoming the Rockets' leader following his trade right before the regular season got underway. With the Rockets the youngest team in the league, Harden felt it was his responsibility to help pass along what he had learned his first three seasons in the league from OKC, which included a trip to the NBA Finals last season. He has found himself adjusting his methods as the season's gone along.
"I think I've tried to cut back on the vocal, as far as kind of putting pressure on guys, yelling at guys and things like that," Harden said. "And I just try to work hard in practices and in shootarounds, being more focused. And then going out there and just playing hard. I think that if I show by example, my teammates will follow."
That work is noticeable for anybody attending practices and shootarounds. Harden is among the most consistent Rockets at being one of the last, if not the last, shooter on the floor still working on his shooting.
"Guys see him staying in late and getting in the extra work and just really taking it serious and getting focused," Terrence Jones said. "It's just great to see. You always hear about great players putting in extra work, but being here to see it is something great that you can learn from."
But still, it's been a learning experience.
"Just getting more adjusted to the atmosphere," Harden said. "And knowing how each possession is very important and I've got to take care of the ball. So obviously, this is a new role for me is being a leader on the team. I've just got to go out there and play hard and help my teammates.
"It's something that I just welcome," he continued. "I don't really worry about the pressure. I worry about going out there and just making plays. Sometimes, I do a little bit too much and that causes a little bit of my turnovers. But I've just got to do a better job at not turning the ball over and knowing when to take a good shot and a great shot."
His contributions have been clear. Not only did he finish fifth in the league in scoring at 25.9 points a game, but his Rockets are in a position many pundits did not expect them to be in, with a spot in the postseason.
"He's a huge part of what we do," Kevin McHale said. "There are times that we probably put so much pressure on him to make a lot of plays. He's handled it well. Our guys have got to realize that, going into this thing, it's not me vs. him. It's us vs. them. More ball movement, more body movement and more of what we need to do to be successful is how we have to play."