James Harden's New Look

Grow up, Clones.

Jim Rome
December 16, 2020 - 9:39 am
James Harden

USA Today

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James Harden is having himself a day. Or two. Or 50. Let’s start with the on-court action. Harden made his preseason debut last night. He had 12 points and started an absolute tsunami on twitter.

It’s crazy. James Harden, one of the greatest players in NBA history, makes his preseason debut after a very weird offseason and exactly zero people are talking about how he played. James Harden is now sharing a backcourt with John Wall and could form one of the most explosive duos in the league and nobody is commenting on their chemistry.

But people are talking a lot about James Harden.

Not because he went 3 for 10 from the field, but because he looked like he went three-ten on the scale.

If you haven’t seen a photo, I suggest you track one down immediately because I want you to judge for yourself.

Actually, I don’t want you to judge…because everyone else has already done that. And it was grim. There was plenty of jokes about his physique and by physique I mean his boiler; dude is not exactly out here promoting premium gut health if you mean.  And there were jokes.  Lots of jokes

Field Yates: Playing 2 guard for the Rockets tonight and 3 technique for the Texans on Sunday. Https://twitter.com/fieldyates/status/1339021679385841665

M Shadows 17: 2020 James Harden giving off 2013 Eddie Lacy vibes.

Harden was looking so solid, he was getting compared to Kendrick Perkins and he had Rick Ross trending. And it GOT so serious that Perk himself weighed in, retweeting a pic of Harden in warmups with the caption “Yep, I got a wig on."

And let me say this about that –I don’t know if he’s fat. I mean, sure, he LOOKS FAT, BUT I don’t know if that still image of him circulating is just a moment where he was inhaling and puffing out his chest. So I’m not going to judge him.

He’s a big-boned fella. He’s always been barrel-chested. He’s been a guy who has been solid for most of his career and will still show up and drop a 40 on your head and there’s nothing you can do about it. He’s trying to win basketball games, not a six-pack competition, KNOW THAT ABOUT HIM... 

I also know that during quarantine, he was hitting it hard and looked absolutely shredded. It was inspiring.  I WAS IMPRESSED.

And yes, in that photo he looks like he just ate a 50-piece from McDonald’s, but he can just as easily drop a 50-piece on your head.

And if you think about the reports of where he’s been instead of being in training camp, I could see why people might jump to the conclusion that he’s been partying too hard and putting on lbs. My man is the anti-Jimmy Butler: Butler is rolling out at 4am to get his work in, and Harden is probably rolling in at 4am after getting his work in. They’re just no doing the same work. 

But I’m not here to fat shame him, because I don’t even know if he’s fat. That really could just be a matter of a bad angle at a bad moment. Derek Eater knows all about that.

So miss me with your “James Harden? More like James Hardee’s” smack.

Hey Rome, James Harden was in his bag all right…the feedbag.

Van Smack, I see Harden’s been working on his handles…his love handles. 

If your first thought was to email me with some weak “James Larden” joke, delete your account. Change your name. And move to different state. Because you embarrass yourself, and worse, you embarrass me with James Larden jokes.

If you’d like to talk about James Harden, I’m happy to do that because there is plenty to talk about that because ESPN just dropped an incredible article on him. And if you combine the article with the photo from last night, it’s one hell of a combo.

Early on in the piece, the Rockets culture is described by one former staffer as “whatever James wants.”

And apparently what James wants is really quite something. For example, here’s an excerpt: “If the Rockets had two or three days between games, it was a good bet Harden would call for an off day and charter a private jet to party in Las Vegas or another city. He always gets an excused absence from the first practice after the All-Star break for the same reason.”

I’m not sure what’s more amazing – the fact that he would be jetting to Vegas nearly every chance he gets or the fact that he comes back and goes for 40.

One coach from last year said: "If they have multiple days off, everybody knows: James is going to fly somewhere else and party. But he's going to come back and have a 50-point triple-double, so they're OK with it."

And he rarely misses games. He plays a ton of minutes and he parties a ton of minutes, allegedly. That is absolutely incredible. There’s part of me that wonders how much better he’d be if he wasn’t partying, but maybe the partying is his version of John Smoltz golfing. Maybe the partying makes him a better player. Is that possible?

The piece blames him for the firing of Kevin McHale and trading away Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. And lays out how Russell Westbrook was “appalled” by the casual culture in Houston.

According to one assistant: "Nothing ever starts on time. The plane is always late. The bus is never on time. ... It's just an organized AAU team."

That is an amazing statement. But this paragraph from the piece is even better.

“After the Rockets let it be known they would not be swayed by unhappiness, Harden delayed his arrival to camp, instead choosing to hang out with rapper Lil Baby -- gifting his friend a Prada bag stuffed with honey buns, a $100,000 brick of cash (aka a "Honey Bun") and a Richard Mille watch worth well into six figures for Lil Baby's birthday -- while leaving Silas hanging.”

A Prada bag stuffed with honey buns and a brick of cash (aka a Honey Bun) is the single greatest gift in the history of mankind. And yes, I’m aware that he’s doling out honey buns and then shows up looking like he ate the honey buns. Keep moving.

I also want to say there are two sides to every story and probably about a billion to this one. There are plenty of people who have thoughts on what happened to the Rockets over the last few years and who have axes they want to grind. So you have to take all of it with a grain of salt.

And just because Harden was doing it, doesn’t mean everyone else is innocent as one assistant coach pointed out: "We knew who the boss of the organization was. That's just part of what the deal was when you go to Houston. The players, coaches, GM, owner all know. I don't blame James. I blame the organization. It's not his fault. He did what they allowed him to do."

As another former assistant coach said “You can't get mad at your kid if you let him eat candy every night and then suddenly one night you don't and they throw a tantrum. You're the one who let them eat candy every night.”

And if you see that pic from yesterday, you might think that James Harden was quite literally eating candy every night.

Look, I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong about what’s happening in Houston. I can see why some people would be pissed when they read this because he’s not working as hard as he can and because it seems like the organization is a mess, but how much of that is Harden and how much is everyone else?

The idea of Harden partying hard is nothing new. That’s part of his brand. And honestly, it’s a damn good brand. He’ll go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history and greatest partiers in world history. And if that pic is legit, one of the greatest eaters in NBA history: my man is hallway to Oliver Miller: half way to Cleveland Cavalier Shawn Kemp.