James Harden and the Rockets travel to Golden State tonight to take on the Warriors, and it promises to be a good one. The Rockets are coming off a tough loss to the Blazers last night, and the Warriors got a buzzer-beating win against Dallas on Wednesday. In the run up to tonight's game, which is at 9:30 CST on ESPN, Bruce Bowen joined us to talk about the game.
He had a lot to say about the Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard's mental state, and James Harden's poor defense. Check it out!
Patrick Harrel: Steph Curry keeps hitting shots and taking down teams. Is there a point guard not named Chris Paul playing better than him right now?
Bruce Bowen: There are a lot of point guards playing at extremely high levels. Russell Westbrook is playing pretty darn well, who knows what Deron Williams will do when he gets back, and Tony Parker is obviously one of the best guys out there. Not to take anything away from Curry, who's playing really well right now, but he has to earn his way to the top and there are a ton of guys playing at a very high level.
PH: Andre Iguodala is out another two weeks with a hamstring injury. Just how important is he to that Warriors' defense?
BB: That absence is being felt even more so right now. They just can't get stops right now, and that's not what Mark Jackson wants. Right now all they can do is outscore people instead of slowing them down, but Jackson would want them to be a more defensively oriented team, which is what Iguodala could do for them.
Iguodala does a lot for that defense, he can guard multiple positions, and his experience at the Olympics is really crucial. At the Olympics, he took on that role where he bought in and did it all as a role player, and that's what they're really missing right now. It's a lot easier to get someone to buy in when other people have bought in and they are really missing Iguodala right now.
PH: The Rockets added Dwight Howard this summer. What have you thought about what Howard has brought to the team this far?
BB: To be honest, I haven't seen anything mind-blowing. Looking at him and Blake Griffin, you see two really great athletes, but you keep waiting on them to show more as basketball players. Last night against the Blazers, you could see him making really great basketball moves, and you see flashes of his work with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer. You just have to hope he can continue that in the future.
PH: Howard has always struggled with mental focus, and as someone who has worked with athletes in the past on their focus, what would you tell him with respect to that?
BB: It all starts with the individual. If you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, you have to look at yourself and know you have to be better. You simply have to break yourself to build yourself up. Any excuses you make to yourself are just going to hurt your mental focus.
The excuses Dwight made last year in Los Angeles were not what you want your best player to say. You're the three time Defensive Player of the Year, and you're making excuses all the time. Crying over spilled milk. Dwight has a great opportunity to be successful, but he just has to be honest with himself, and accept criticism. If he doesn't, he's not going to improve.
PH: Harden has caught a lot of flak for his defense this season. What do you make of that, and do you think the Rockets can hide him on defense?
BB: You just have to play D. If you want to consider yourself a superstar, you have to play D. And right now, he's just choosing not to. The disappointing thing is that I've seen him play defense. And I know Harden can play defense. But with all the accolades he's gotten, he's gotten comfortable and not play defense, and he just has to be more well-rounded.
You can't just rest on defense, and that's what Harden's doing. Right now there aren't really any consequences for not giving effort for him, but he just has to be better. He honestly has surprised me with how terrible he's been on defense.
PH: What are you looking for out of the game tonight?
BB: I want to see the Rockets bounce back after last night's loss to the Blazers. When Damian Lillard goes 1-10 and you still lose, it doesn't reflect well on you. The Rockets still have plenty of time to get going, but the game against Portland didn't look good for them. I want to see how they recover against this Warriors team.
Golden State has been getting off to slow starts, and I want to see them do better from the start. They can't just rely on Klay Thompson and Steph Curry to bring them back into games, they have to be better from the start and sustain what they're doing. Draymond Green is another guy to look for, as he is doing it all right now. He's not going to blow you away in any one category, but as a bench guy, he's been really big for them as a guy who helps in all categories. I think a lot of that maturity comes from him being a four year guy in college, as he really grew as a player in those four years. It'll be a good one tonight.
Thanks to Kristen Hudek of ESPN and Bruce for working out the interview and be sure to check out the game tonight on national TV at 9:30 CST on ESPN.