The Host With The Most

by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - James Harden isn’t tipping his hand one way or the other.

Much as he keeps his intentions close to the vest while deftly and methodically maneuvering his way through a pick-and-roll, the Rockets’ superstar refused to give a definitive response Saturday morning when asked if his injured right ankle was healthy enough to allow him to play in his first-ever All-Star game.

There were hints, however, that sure make it seem as if he’ll be good to go – none bigger than the one dropped when he copped to his desire to not just play, but log 40 minutes off the bench Sunday night. And while that number is likely out of reach – Kevin Durant, last season’s All-Star MVP, led all players with 38 minutes a year ago in Orlando – Harden’s admission certainly lends credence to the notion that he’ll be on the floor in some form or fashion when the bright lights shine upon Toyota Center Sunday for the league’s marquee event.

In the meantime, Harden has been making the most of his turn as the city’s unofficial host, bouncing from place to place to keep up with a jam-packed schedule that is downright presidential. From media blitzes to community events, coaching celebrities to mingling with them at various soirées about town, Harden has quite literally been working around the clock to show off his new hometown.

But let’s face it: the 23-year-old doesn’t need to emulate the Chamber of Commerce to convince anyone that Houston is once again a destination city for NBA players, nor does he need to lace up his high-tops Sunday night. A simple League Pass subscription should more than suffice in that regard. Watch a Rockets game or two. Bask in that nasty Eurostep and those sweet skip passes across the court. You’ll find yourself quickly forgetting about the red carpet parties and rapidly realizing that those welcome to Houston pamphlets can be put away for good. Who needs hardcore recruiting? James Harden’s play and production say it all.