James Harden is not ‘washed’, he’s just 32 years old

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In some ways, James Harden’s past cursed his present.

The guy who was once a solo offense capable of guaranteeing a first-round floor is no longer able to do that at 32 years old. For a bevy of reasons not necessarily related to basketball or the here-and-now, Harden has not received the understanding with which aging players are typically graced.

There’s no middle ground in the discourse.

Harden plays like he did in Game 1, “he’s washed”. Harden goes for 28 points and 16 assists, “he’s the one”.

The reality is somewhere in between.

It’s more than fair to say Harden needs to play better than he did on Monday.

At the same time, what Harden is or isn’t able to do in Joel Embiid’s absence shouldn’t serve as some grandiose college exam worth half your semester grade.

In almost every way, Harden’s job is far easier described than done. Observers can simplify his task sans Embiid as much as they want. The reality is far more complicated with Miami putting 2 around the ball when he’s in possession.

It’s not a miscalculation that Bam Adebayo is playing up on a non-shooter in DeAndre Jordan. Switching leaves the weakest link vulnerable and simultaneously allows the best defenders to pinch driving lanes.

Miami blocked Harden’s gaps with PJ Tucker switching and Bam Adebayo playing high on Jordan. Nowhere to go, Harden’s decision was either to be passive and defer to a teammate, or take a jumper. He chose the latter. A basketball player missed a jump shot, more on the 11 PM news.

If Miami wasn’t switching around Harden to get their most stout defenders in his vicinity, they were throwing 2 at the ball.

Miami trapped Harden’s right to take away the middle of the floor. 2 white jerseys on him all possession, attacking the basket was the right play. With Strus behind him and a contest in front, dumping off to Matisse Thybulle likely yields a better outcome.

Harden’s impact as a passer goes as far as setting his guys up. He is the Sixers’ point guard before he’s anything else. He can’t control their shots, though:

PJ Tucker takes one step towards clogging the driving lane when Harden dips into a triple-threat position, and he rifles to Niang for a clean look. Good decision. He can’t control that his teammates shot 4-for-27 from deep.

Harden logged 5 assists. Brutal team shooting left him with 15 potential assists, according to NBA.com’s tracking data.

None of this matters if Embiid is sidelined, though. Harden isn’t here to don a Superman cape for indefinite periods of time. He’s here to create high-quality shots and be a Robin to Embiid’s Batman.

It’s reasonable to demand more aggression for a spot game here and there. More aggression is the only way Harden can dig within for a performance resembling his vintage, something the Sixers will need to tie the series heading back to Philly with Embiid’s return ostensibly looming.

This post originally appeared on Sixers Wire! Follow us on Facebook!