While James Harden seems extremely pleased with his new team, not everyone is so ecstatic about seeing the Beard donning the Philadelphia 76ers jersey. It's not because the colorways look ugly on him. It's because Harden is back to playing iso-ball — a style that entertains casual fans but irritates the hell out of those who want victories. After all, in the not-so-distant past, Harden made a living off iso-ball. It is a stylistic choice that did relatively well but failed to win a title in Houston.
"I put the work in"
Harden is well aware of this. As one of the most popular figures in basketball, a lot of flack is thrown his way. But Harden remains resolute in sticking to this playstyle. He reminded everyone that amid everything, he's still living his dream.
“I don’t care what people say. Honestly, I really, like, don’t care at all. I know how skilled and the work I put in to be one of the best basketball players. Nothing was given to me. I wasn’t one of the best basketball players growing up. I had to work every single day to be in the position I am today. So there’s nothing that somebody can tell me about my game. I put the work in, I go out there and produce, and I try to be the best teammate that I can be every single night. Simple as that.”
“Basically what I just mentioned, man,” said Harden. “It’s like a kid growing up, trying to figure out what to do in basketball, something that I fell in love with. I wasn’t the most athletic or explosive guy. I just tried to work my way every single day and now, I’m in a position where I am today. I’m still not complacent. I’m still not comfortable,” Harden said, per USA Today."
The roots of Harden-ball
Harden's penchant for iso-ball stems back from his days with Mike D'Antoni along the sidelines. They devised one of the most unorthodox strategies in basketball. With Harden orchestrating the offense, their playbook consisted of nothing but 3-pointers and lay-ups. Since Harden can do both at an elite level, his superstardom rose in Houston. We can even say that his stay in Houston was one of the major factors to his inclusion in the NBA Top 75 players of all-time list.
Perhaps this is why Harden refuses to tweak his game accordingly. While basketball is a team sport, one's ego gets a little boost upon seeing his beefy statistics across the board. But as we have seen time and time again, Harden hasn't really found much success utilizing his playstyle.
Even Kobe Bryant pointed out that iso-ball will only get him through the regular season. Come the playoffs, when defenses tweak their playbook especially for you, there's no way it would work.
It would be unfortunate if Harden's stint in Philly ends up for nothing, whatever the case may be. There is no question that he's one of the greats of the sport. He knows the game way better than the rest of us. And so, all we could do is trust in his instincts that his style will eventually bring him a title.