James Harden made a surprise appearance at a youth basketball camp today, showing up at the Sports Zone to win a game of knockout and offer some pointers to the enthusiastic campers, reports KHOU.
He also spoke to the media for a few and offered up this tasty tidbit, saying he’s currently spending his offseason working out with his teammates offsite for the first time since he’s been in Houston.
Think about that for a second. I’ve been an ardent defender of James Harden’s this season, dubbing him one of the most underrated players in the NBA back in April, coming to his defense again when he was left off of each and every All-NBA team this past year and making sure to point out that it was, in fact, Dwight Howard, not Harden, who bore the most responsibility for the Rockets’ locker room issues.
This revelation does nothing to change any of that. The Beard is still underrated, and he’s still taking an unfair drubbing outside of H-town. But it does show that the soon-to-be 27-year-old Harden has thus far been a work in progress from a leadership standpoint.
At the elite level, it’s the little things that separate the top players, and something as small as spending some extra time with your guys in the offseason has the potential to pay large dividends throughout the year. It’s a shame this a first for Harden.
The positive spin on this is that he recognized leadership as an opportunity area and implemented action to address it. The Beard is now leading offseason workouts with his teammates. It may be overdue, but it’s all part of the maturation process. The now-in-his-prime Harden is obviously looking for ways he can improve not just his court game, but his mental game and team chemistry as well.
It seems The Beard is taking that shiny, new contract extension seriously, and also taking this face-of-the franchise stuff to heart. This is ultimately a good thing. It just should have happened before now.
Check out the rest of the report from KHOU. Harden also dishes on staying home from the Olympics this year, and their video shows some of the highlights from The Beard’s youth camp surprise.