By: Rahat Huq
I saw some discussion recently regarding the topic of James Harden's isoballing ways, in the context of Daryl Morey's perceived attitude towards the issue. On the basis of a quote from a recent Calvin Watkins post on ESPN.com, it was deduced by some that Morey was oblivious to the problem. Here is the quote cited, from the Watkins post:
Rockets GM Daryl Morey noted recently that the competitor in Harden won’t allow him to give up the ball. It’s a trait Morey likes, and he loves Harden's desire to win and do whatever is necessary.
Watkins presumably was summarizing a key point from the recent Daryl Morey interview with ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. However, there was much more to the conversation on this particular point than what was cited, most of it telling towards the opposite conclusion.
Lowe told Morey he had envisioned the Rockets playing in a relentless drive and kick fashion, with Harden driving and kicking to Lawson, mentioning the need for guys to "feel the ball." Lowe said he only sees this now when Jason Terry enters the game, inquiring, "why can't every possession be like that?"
Morey answered saying, "a lot of these questions, you're asking the right one because you know what you're talking about," adding, "we know the issues, we are attempting to solve them," and later adding, "if it was like a problem A, solution A, then it would have been fixed two months ago. So some of these are difficult problems."
It was only after this entire preface that Morey mentioned Harden's competitiveness and desire to win. He even closed saying "he has to to get to the next level and he knows that," in regards to the context of sharing the ball.
I had initially planned to write on this very topic after hearing the interview because I was rather surprised at the revealing nature of the thoughts. We all, on the outside, assume Harden's ball dominating ways are a problem, but we have no way of knowing what the organization is thinking on the inside. The problem has become so pervasive that one might even assume the team was enabling it. I would've thought Morey, in response to that question, would have just left it at the part about competitiveness. So to hear a confirmation and recognition of the existence of the problem was fascinating, and I guess, sort of reassuring. I say this all the time: some things seem so obvious, that you almost assume that there is some complex rationale you're missing, and then upon receiving confirmation of that obvious conclusion, you find yourself completely surprised. (see: why don't Dwight Howard/Harden run the pick and roll?; because they just started practicing it literally this year).
As I've been writing all year, the key for Houston now is to bring in someone in the offseason who can get Harden to trust the system and his teammates.