James Harden Reportedly Will Start for Kobe Bryant in 2014 NBA All-Star Game

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James Harden Reportedly Will Start for Kobe Bryant in 2014 NBA All-Star Game
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Houston Rockets star James Harden will reportedly replace Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference's starting backcourt on Sunday in the 2014 All-Star Game. 

Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears was the first to report the roster change.

This will be Harden's debut as an All-Star Game starter. The 24-year-old shooting guard came off the bench for the West in his first-ever appearance in 2013.

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Bryant, who is in the midst of recovering from a knee injury suffered in December, was replaced by New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis on Feb. 7. But considering Harden ranks among the league's top 10 scorers this season, he was an obvious choice to start at the other guard spot alongside Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry.

Harden is averaging 23.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game at the All-Star break, and he has been instrumental to Houston's success. The Rockets have won seven games in a row and are 36-17 at the break, good enough for third in the Western Conference playoff standings. 

Harden admits that he's still settling into his new star role, but he isn't shy when it comes to adding new elements to his game, per ESPN.com's Henry Abbott:

I do a lot of work in the summertime. I have coaches helping me out with the Rockets. I watch a lot of film and see how defenders are guarding me. Even during the season, every single day I’m constantly working on something in my game. I’m still new to this whole "star player" thing, so I have to be on point at all times. Just me working every single day is going to help me out. 

With the former Arizona State Sun Devil leading the way, the Rockets rank third in the NBA in scoring offense and fourth in field-goal percentage. 

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Harden will be joined by Rockets teammate Dwight Howard on Sunday in New Orleans. The polarizing center is an All-Star for the eighth consecutive season in 2014, but he will come off the bench for the first time since 2007. 

Although Harden was sure to see plenty of action in Sunday's 63rd NBA All-Star Game either way, his new role will allow him to attack from the opening tip and gives him a real shot to take home MVP honors.

He certainly won't be lacking the motivation to succeed considering he'll be starting alongside former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and playing under former head coach Scott Brooks.

  

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