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After seven years apart, it’s safe to say that Russell Westbrook is more than ready to be playing with James Harden again.
The duo officially reunited on Friday at the Houston Rockets’ media day, marking the first time they’ve been on the same team in the NBA since their time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And with their reunion came a bit of a warning for the rest of the league.
“It’s going to be scary, that’s all I can tell you,” Westbrook said, via ESPN. “It’s going to be scary — not for us.”
Westbrook averaged a triple-double last season for the third straight year. Harden averaged a career-high 36.1 points per game last year, and compiled a massive 32-game streak where he scored at least 30 points.
They both have a league MVP award under their belts, too, with Westbrook winning in 2016-17 and Harden in 2017-18.
Yet neither has won an NBA championship, or even reached the NBA Finals since 2012.
That, Harden said, is the new goal in Houston.
“We’ve accomplished a lot of individual accolades,” Harden said, via ESPN. “Now it’s time to accomplish something together that we haven’t accomplished before.”
Getting Westbrook and Harden to work together
While Westbrook and Harden have played together before, a big concern is how coach Mike D’Antoni will be able to mesh both of their games together. With both being so dominant offensively, it’s a valid question.
Yet with their history — the pair have been friends since they were children — Harden isn’t stressed about making it work. They’ll “figure it out.”
“If Russ got it going and Russ is having one of those games that we've all seen before, guess what I'm going to do: Sit back and watch the show, and vice versa,” Harden said, via ESPN. “It's just a part of basketball. So you can't sit up here and say, ‘Oh, Russ is going to have the ball for the first half and I'm going to have the ball the second half.’ No, things happen through the course of the game that you just flow with and go with.
“All of us in this locker room and this front office has one goal, and that's to win it. However that happens, it's going to happen, and we're just going to figure it out.”
D’Antoni said on Friday that he will stagger their minutes this season, something that should help balance out their offense. Per the report, D’Antoni plans to rest Westbrook about 16 minutes per game and sit Harden about 13 minutes per game — meaning the pair could only see the court together for a quarter and a half.
Regardless, D’Antoni is confident that Westbrook and his game will mesh well in Houston — even if it takes some time to figure out.
“It'll work itself out. You try not to overcoach it,” D'Antoni said, via ESPN. “We need Russell to be Russell. We don't want to change him. He's an MVP. That's who we need. We need his bravura to be Russell. That's good enough.”
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