Harden's Shot Starting to Fall

Head Coach Scott Brooks recently said that if a player’s personality is anything like the flow of the NBA season, than that player is probably facing an emotional rollercoaster of a season.

James Harden must have heard that one before, because the way he’s playing now is indicative of the type of attitude he took to start the regular season. Harden has remained even-keeled and persistent.

Over the last five games, Harden’s production has increased in every facet of the game. Dating back to the Thunder’s win over Philadelphia, Harden has averaged 10.0 points on 45.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from behind the arc to go with 1.4 steals, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

“I’m just trying to get better every single day,” Harden said. “I’m trying to find the ropes coming in with that second unit to score and not only score but find my open teammates. As games go by I think I’ll get better every single game.”

Now, what with 71 games remaining this season, that’s not to say that Harden, along with the rest of his teammates, won’t endure a few adverse situations and struggles on the court.

The second season for an NBA player is all about taking the next step in his development. Already familiar with the league’s personnel, speed of the game and nuances of his teammates, there’s a certain degree of improvement expected from second-year players.

Harden got off to the right start way back in Summer League, when he developed a nice chemistry with fellow reserve and second-year guard Eric Maynor, dedicated himself to becoming a better defender and worked on shooting off screens and creating for himself off the dribble.

So when the regular season started and Harden struggled with his shot in the minutes he was given, the one thing he did not do was get down on himself. Through the season’s first six games, he was averaging 4.8 points, 0.8 assists, shooting 30 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from behind the arc.

So Harden continued to work.

“He’s just constantly working and has stayed working on his game,” Maynor said. “We weren’t concerned with him missing shots in the beginning because we know he works on his game a lot. I feel like every shot he takes is going to fall. That’s how you’ve got to feel about your teammates, especially if they’re putting in the work.”

The difference, Harden said, has been his ability to play at a faster pace and make quicker decisions with the ball in his hands.

“I think that’s something we’re trying to change, playing at a faster pace,” he said. “When you catch it, just drive. Or when you catch it, just catch and shoot.”

The results have been encouraging.

After attempting just 11 free throws through the first six games, Harden started to attack the basket more and has made 16 trips to the foul line over the last five games.

On the perimeter, he’s been catching the ball within the rhythm of the offense and stepping into his shot.

“He’s been playing his game,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Before I think he was thinking a little too much, he was going out there and overanalyzing the game and you tend to make mistakes. He did a good job of bouncing back and kind of persevering through tough times. We all do. Every game I just try to tell him to play his game, have fun and if you make mistakes, so what. We can’t be perfect. He’s been more relaxed these last three or four games and has been playing well.”

Contact Chris Silva