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“He’s a special dude. Without any doubt.” — Coach Gregg Popovich names James Harden stopper

James Harden has to step up amid a struggling Joel Embiid if the Sixers don't want to dig their own hole at the start of the season.
Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden talks to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich and James Harden

James Harden is good, and not just any type of good player, but historically good - and he's not finished yet. If he goes on to win a title before he retires, it would further solidify Harden's Hall-of-Famer-worthy resume. Count rival and usually stoic Coach Gregg Popovich as one of his fans. The San Antonio Spurs coach named the only player he thinks could stop The Beard.

He’s a special dude.

When he’s healthy and focused, James Harden is an MVP-caliber player. There were questions about his desire to play due to sensationalized media coverage about his partying routines and weight concerns. The guy wants to live his life to the fullest, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a bad man (as Stephen A. would say) on the basketball court. If Phil Jackson gave Dennis Rodman the freedom to live his life the way he wanted to as long as he performed on the court, why couldn’t Harden’s coach afford the same treatment to him? But that’s a topic for another story.

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Coach Pop battled with The Beard in the stacked Western Conference. In their head-to-head, the two met 42 times. James averaged 24.8 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in that span. MVP-caliber numbers if you ask anyone. Even Popovich was not short of his praises for the star player.

With his coaching resume and longevity, Pop has seen it all, and if he gives a player praise, that means he's more than earned it. But the Philadephia 76ers are currently 0-3. The work is cut out for them.

How James Harden could push the Sixers this season

The Sixers are still winless after three games. It could be a bad start, but the team should address what led to consecutive defeats. Main man Joel Embiid is not 100%  as he is still reeling from the effects of suffering from plantar fasciitis in the offseason. Critics would say the team has enough talent to get by, and the injury was just an excuse.

James Harden had stellar games against the Celtics and the Bucks but faltered versus the Spurs. When the main man is struggling, the secondary options should step up. In the Sixers’ locker room, it’s now Harden’s responsibility to tow the team, as Jojo is still finding his rhythm. 

It’s still early in the season, and Philadelphia has enough time to right the ship. James Harden should do the heavy lifting, as it was the reason why he was brought on board. Even if he’s struggling to make baskets, his skills are enough to create for his teammates. He should prove he deserves the praise from rivals, fans, players, and Coach Pop. 

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