James Harden’s grueling usage is over as his role has modified, but 1 goal stays: a championship

DETROIT — Perhaps James Harden was playfully irritated at Doc Rivers evaluating his present recreation to Magic Johnson. The Philadelphia 76ers coach referred to as Harden a “scoring Magic Johnson” in reference to balancing scoring and facilitating.

But even with the context, Harden needed it made clear he is his personal participant.

“I’m James Harden,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “I’m gonna get on Doc, too. But I’m James Harden. Magic Johnson was an unbelievable basketball participant, he did so many issues for this league. But I’m James Harden.”

All proper, then.

For the report, Rivers stated he hated the comparability — but made it anyway. He could not consider a higher method for his participant who controls a recreation by doing it each methods offensively, particularly with Joel Embiid lacking video games as a result of harm.

The days of Harden placing up exhausting, exhaustive usage charges bordering or surpassing 40% are over; that tiring activity is left to Luka Doncic. He shrugs his shoulders on the notion of his manufacturing from being underappreciated, particularly within the days of video-game numbers.

“I do not actually care,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “I do not concentrate — underrated, overrated. It does not have an effect on me.”

But even as Harden has nestled into this role of being the co-star to Philly’s one-man human eclipse, he nonetheless admits to craving for these days when 35-point, 10-assist video games had been the norm.

“I might love that, but not as a lot — if that is smart,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “In Houston, I used to be doing that each single night time. It was anticipated. It’s a lot of instances I really feel like I can have that very same influence on video games. But you see the larger image. I’m simply targeted on one factor, man. That’s all that issues.”

When he talks, he sounds much less like somebody keen to take a backstep to a dropping workforce within the twilight of his profession even as the rumors about his future swirl.

“I needed to have the prospect to win on the highest degree. Once I figured we weren’t gonna have the ability to do this in Houston, I attempted to place myself in a scenario to win on the highest degree,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “The final goal for me is a championship.”

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Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden handles the ball towards Detroit Pistons ahead Saddiq Bey at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Jan. 8, 2023. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

The Houston offense appeared easy sufficient, as lengthy as Harden possessed the bodily and psychological stamina to engineer it. The flooring being unfold with shooters mixed with one huge as a rim-running menace and screener to present Harden some area was the method.

It was predictable, but it was largely efficient, even when it wore Harden down within the course of. So when he says he would not thoughts going again to these days, albeit on events greater than traditional, it is probably as a result of the bodily worth paid was very costly.

He was requested if he had an inner battle on what method is the most effective plan of action for the 76ers to get to the higher reaches of the East, as most agree they’re a tier beneath Milwaukee and Boston — and even perhaps the surging Brooklyn Nets.

“I did. I did a lot extra, I nonetheless do generally,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “It’s a greater image, a fixed communication about type of play and the way we need to play and what’s higher for this workforce. I nonetheless obtained a lot extra within the tank.”

Can he rev it up? Aside from Embiid, it feels just like the supporting stars of the 76ers all have the talents to do extra if referred to as upon. But it is Harden who’s prone to bear the accountability of such a activity.

The grueling minutes he is performed over the course of 1 season appeared to have a wear-down impact within the micro, some sputtering finishes in closeout playoff video games.

There was the 12-turnover Game 5 end within the 2015 West finals towards Golden State. In 2017, the Spurs waxed Harden’s Rockets by 39 factors within the West semis clincher, the place Harden fouled out with six turnovers and was 2 for 11 from the sector. There was the teamwide pu pu platter of bricks within the Game 7 West finals loss to the Warriors in 2018.

And final season, Harden mustered up simply 9 pictures in Philadelphia’s Game 6 East semis loss to Miami — a loss that had many questioning about everybody’s future sans Embiid.

The illustrations are much less about his particular person performances, largely as a result of there have been some 30-point finishes sprinkled in, and a few video games the place his workforce did not have it, and extra about how a lot vitality he had on the finish of grinding seasons.

So it would not be stunning to see all these minutes and video games have a cumulative impact over a number of years, particularly as he’ll flip 34 in August.

Embiid makes each defender enjoying heart appear like lunch meat within the Eastern Conference. Even defensive wizard Bam Adebayo cannot management a recreation the best way he’d love to do due to Embiid’s mere presence.

So if he cannot do extra, it will go away Harden to select up postseason slack — or any night time the place there’s scoring to be completed. His usage of 26.1 this season is increased than final season’s 21-game trial run, but decrease than something he is produced since his first three years as a super-sub in Oklahoma City.

“It takes a toll in your physique. But in the event you put together your self for that, then clearly you would be higher off,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “If a participant has a excessive usage fee, initially, the participant has to be constructed for it. Like enjoying X quantity of minutes a recreation and producing them, having to attain and playmaking, doing all of the issues night time in and night time out.”

He felt like he was ready for these years in Houston, and feels likewise now. After saying he performs excessive minutes now, he stated “having Joel and Tyrese [Maxey] and Tobias [Harris]” lessens the final want for him to be an offense unto himself.

The Harden system is not wanted, but Harden is.

And he is aware of it, and desires to be greater than a passer, a secondary possibility.

“I need to rating. I need to rating,” Harden instructed Yahoo Sports. “My scoring makes my facilitating a lot higher. Don’t get that twisted. I need to rating.”

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