"It's going to take them a few more games to figure out spacing, to figure out when is the time to push," Kyrie Irving said after the Mavericks dropped the Clippers to 0-3 in the James Harden era (via Tomer Azarly). "Individually, they're incredible... I know that they'll be better, but right now they're trying to find their way."
It's going to take 10 games if you ask James Harden.
James Harden to reporters last night in Dallas: "For me individually, this is only my third game. I didn’t have a training camp, I didn’t have a preseason, so everything is still moving fast speed for me. I need about a 10-game window then kind of see where I am from there."
— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) November 11, 2023
Harden's not totally wrong. He's averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 assists per game, shooting 54.2%, these are not terrible numbers but not near his career averages (24.7 points per game) or what the Clippers need from him.
It was always going to take time for four guys who want to create off the dribble — Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook — but the results of the pairing have been troubling through three games. Los Angeles is not only 0-3, they have the 27th-ranked defense and 25th-ranked offense in the league over the last three games, and they are 29th in net rating (ahead of only the rebuilding Spurs). Westbrook is getting more shots than Paul George and Harden, so far, has been comfortable more as a facilitator.
More telling, the Clippers have played without much urgency, like they are thinking the game and not playing on instinct and with aggressiveness yet. That has to change.
It's a long season and we are not even 10 games in, but in a deep West this season the 3-5 Clippers cannot dig themselves a hole, it will be very difficult to climb out. Games against Memphis and Houston this week are possible wins (although the Rockets have won five in a row and are no pushovers), but wherever they come from the Clippers need to pick some up.
Harden needs to be at the heart of that.