Scottie Pippen is not the greatest Harden fan. Pip is so passionate about the issue that he was arguing with his ESPN colleagues with MVP votes last year, trying to convince them to vote for Giannis and not Harden. As Brian Windhorst described it on a podcast, Pippen does not approve of Harden’s style of play, to put it mildly.
A few days ago on the Jump, Pippen was asked what does he think of Harden’s 55 points against the Cavaliers. It is important to point out that Harden played for 41 minutes, posted a 55/3/8, and he did it with only 5 free throws. Unlike your standard Harden performance, he didn’t get a lot of foul calls and got his 55 by going 20-34 from the field, 10-18 from three. When asked about this performance, Pippen replies (via The Jump):
“To me it’s nothing. Based on the fact how the game is being played today, he cotroling the ball possesion most of the game, it’s really just a one-on-one game for him. He’s looking at guy like Westbrook, they’re wide open, and he’s still launching shots. To see him scoring 55 is nothing, because he’s shooting every shot almost.”Scottie Pippen
Never thought I’d defend Harden’s style of play, but in his defense, I’d take a Harden contested three over a wide-open Westbrook any day of the week. While Harden was efficient in that game, 58% from the field, 55% from three, I can see Pippen’s point. The way the Rockets play the game and how much control and possession Harden burns through his 50 over the Cavs isn’t that impressive as someone’s 30 against a better team.
The other thing is, Harden had to play 41 minutes against the Cavs for the Rockets to beat them. The game ended 116-110 for the Rockets, nothing to write home about. The way Harden plays is difficult for other players to adapt to and nights like this will happen. Windhorst pointed out Pippen’s career-high was 47, and he was downplaying Harden’s 55. Scottie had an instant response to that (via The Jump):
“Well, I didn’t get as many shots, and I didn’t handle the ball for 38 out of 48 minutes. In today’s game, if I could get down and pound it? I’d get 40 (per game).”Scottie Pippen
So alongside the older generations not liking what players like Harden are doing to the team aspect of the game, it seems they want to make sure numbers in today’s era are put in the right context. This is where analytics, something NBA legends often mock, supports their cause. If adjusted for pace (number of possessions), according to Tom Haberstroh, the highest-scoring season ever was achieved by one Kobe Bryant in ’05/’06. Take that for data.