James Harden put up 15 points on 13 shots in the Houston Rockets’ 132-90 victory over the Orlando Magic. The former league MVP connected on just three of his nine attempted three-pointers.
Over the past three outings, Harden is averaging a mere 17 points per game and shooting just 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Given the acrimony that has existed between Harden and the Rockets ever since he demanded a trade, many have taken to wondering whether he is purposely not playing hard.
Rockets analyst Calvin Murphy suggested this much on Wednesday night, following a 114-107 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
“He quit,” Murphy said on a hot mic.
Uhm.. volume up pic.twitter.com/ZXzeadHUQv
— Jackson Gatlin (@JTGatlin) January 7, 2021
On Friday, new Rockets head coach Stephen Silas attempted to push back on the growing narrative that Harden was giving up on his team.
“James’ effort level has been great,” he said, per Ben DuBose of USA Today.
“He’s done everything I’ve needed him to do. I don’t really have a response to anyone saying he’s not playing hard, because that’s not what I see.”
The Bucks owner’s daughter decided to bring 2021 in with a bang by stripping all her clothes off. https://t.co/UgzhEEna4o
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 7, 2021
As far as Silas can see, Harden’s lower production is simply the byproduct of more off-the-ball play.
“He’s played on the ball, off the ball,” Silas continued. “He’s played defense. … That’s not what I see from him, or the group.”
It’s hard to argue with Silas’ point. Although Harden’s scoring output is leaving something to be desired, it’s not for a lack of effort. He did launch up nine threes against Orlando. Had a couple of those gone in, he’d have finished with 20+ on the night.
O.J. has a simple question for America. https://t.co/w1ucZarCdF
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 9, 2021
Moreover, Harden recorded 13 assists, five rebounds, and one block in 31 minutes. He is currently tied for the league lead in assists per game with Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards.
All of which is to say – obviously friction exists between Harden and the Rockets. He wants to be somewhere else, that much is clear.
But based on everything that Harden has shown over the last few games, there is no reason to think he has quit on his ballclub. He is simply in the midst of a scoring slump – nothing more, nothing less.