It’s hard to know where to start with Harden, except that it’s pretty obvious that when the chips are really down, this dude doesn’t want any part of it, other than maybe to eat them. What does he want? Probably to be parachuted into the absolute perfect situation where he can be hailed as the missing piece, not do a whole lot, the team wins anyway, and he can claim the glory for himself. There’s front runners and then there’s people joining the marathon at the last turn. Guess which one Harden is.
The thing is, we knew this in 2018. That was Harden’s chance to join the glitterati of the NBA, that Rockets team that catered to his every whim and was built specifically to his impossible-to-watch game. The Rockets had a chance to snuff out the Warriors in Game 6, Harden was the same sieve on defense that the rest of the team was as Golden State instantly wiped out a 10-point halftime deficit. What did harden do in the 4th with the Rockets still in touching distance? No points, two shots, two turnovers, one foul back on the bench to watch the end. Watching it all crumble, which seems to be his main skill in crunch time.
Had another chance, Game 7 at home. Harden was -20 in that third quarter when the Warriors wiped out another halftime deficit. Six of Harden’s eight points in the fourth quarter came in the last two minutes when the game was already decided.
And then things went sour in Houston, even though everything the Rockets did was done to please him. When he got tired of it, he took the postgame buffet home with him every night. Then he bitched and moaned when every single facet of the Rockets’ existence didn’t suit him, and got his ample ass shipped to Brooklyn.
But that didn’t suit him either, with Kevin Durant being the better scorer and thus more ball dominant. Oh, James paid lip service to being a good teammate between injuries (his ligaments and muscles struggling under the weight they were asked to carry), but the second he sensed he wouldn’t be carried to a title on a Roman emperor’s palanquin he made goo-goo eyes at the exit sign again.
And Philly was only too happy to swap him out for their own airheaded doofus, though rotting out their depth for the right. And as soon as Harden showed up it was obvious he didn’t have anything to offer. It took opponents a few seconds to figure out that Harden can’t get to the rim anymore with his tookus somewhere around the free-throw line when he tries. But he still forced four teammates to watch him try to “Colin Robinson” opponents by pounding the ball outside the arc for 20 seconds, even though there was little threat.
And when the chips were down for the Sixers last night, facing elimination, 11 points is what Harden came up with, just 4-for-9 from the field, no free throws, standing out beyond the arc most possessions trying to make it clear it had nothing to do with him.
He’ll claim injury. There’s always an excuse. He’s only getting older now, and slower, and he’s running out of other championship situations he can drop into and try to get it to orbit around him.
I still think Jimmy Butler is a fraud, but at least there is work being done there even if his main concern is making sure everyone sees him doing it. It’s hard to say even that is going on with Harden. Everything has to be just so for him, except he wants nothing to do with making it just so. He’ll show up when it is, but if it isn’t, he’s throwing up deuces.
The Sixers are fucked. And Embiid knows it. He can rant about the MVP voting, but we know now what’s got him going all goth on a hot day. He’s got an even bigger anchor than he had before, and neither one of them wants to shoot when it matters most.