Hours after Russell Westbrook set an NBA single-season record for triple-doubles and to some cinched his MVP bid—notching 50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and a game-winning three-pointer versus the Denver Nuggets—his main competitor, James Harden, said he believes wins should be the main factor in deciding the award.
"I think that's the most important thing. I thought winning is what this is about, period," Harden told reporters Sunday. "I'm not going to get in-depth with all that, but I thought winning was the most important thing. If you set your team up in a position to have a chance, at the ultimate goal, that's the most important thing."
Harden finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists (along with 10 turnovers)—his 21st triple-double of the season—in a 135-128 win over the Sacramento Kings. The win moved Houston to 54-26, an eight-game margin over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook, who already clinched becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double, broke Oscar Robertson's single-season triple-double record that existed since 1961-62.
It was Westbrook's third 50-point triple-double, already the most in league history.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Harden said of Westbrook. "He's been playing extremely well all season long. It's never been done before, it's a great individual accomplishment, and it's great."
The Rockets braintrust has been publicly pushing the wins narrative as the regular season comes to a close. General manager Daryl Morey, the strongest public proponent of Harden as MVP, has taken to Twitter over the last couple of days to make his case.
The team's website even has a list of accomplishments meant to push Harden as the league's most valuable player. Perhaps the biggest plus is that Harden, who averages 29.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game, is responsible for 56.3 points per game—the most since Tiny Archibald in 1972-73.
"It's just another great individual stat," Harden said. "But like I said, my job is to go out there and try to get my teammates involved, try to build their confidence so we're able to go out there and play and everybody is feeling good that's the most important thing. If none of my teammates are feeling good, I won't be anything, and we won't be far as to where we're trying to go.
"That's the most important thing. That's my job every night, and I think for the most part, guys are feeling good. We just got to continue to keep going."