Who's James Harden defending again? Oh, no one? Sounds about right.
Lauded for his scoring prowess, playmaking abilities and hair-follicle superiority, Harden isn't known for his defense. His teams have allowed over a point per 100 possessions more with him on the floor since he entered the league. Suffice it to say, he has been far from perfect.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers, he was even worse.
The Houston Rockets were lit up for 137 points by the surging Clippers, who ruined Houston's perfect record. On defense, Harden was particularly terrible. More than a few times, he lost track of his man, was beaten off the dribble or simply didn't put his hands up to contest the shot. It was ugly.
My favorite moment from the video above comes at the 44-second mark, when J.J. Redick is standing idle in the strong-side corner. As Blake Griffin sets a screen for Chris Paul, Redick streaks past Harden, who isn't even looking in his direction. By the time Harden realizes he's been punked, Griffin has already hit Redick with a pass for an easy two.
Defensive efforts like Harden's are why the Rockets found themselves on the wrong end of a 130-plus-point outburst. Though they put up 118 of their own, it wasn't enough. And frankly, that's sad.
The Rockets were 15-1 when they scored at least 118 points last season. Scoring that much has never been their problem. It's always been on the defensive end, where they allowed the third-most points in the league last season (102.5). In Los Angeles, they were up to their old tricks again.
More maddening than anything is knowing that Harden is capable of better. While he's never been a great defender, he's routinely showed up when facing some of the best in the league. Like Kobe Bryant, for example:
Lots of talk about Harden's defense last night. He's capable of better than he showed. He was always great on Kobe: http://t.co/iOV5DJ0H0Z— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 5, 2013
Offense will carry the Rockets to plenty of victories this season, but it seems Dwight Howard needs to have a pep talk with a certain bearded teammate. Apparently, he didn't get the memo that defense is no longer optional.