We haven’t talked about this much this season, because every time we discuss it, we get accused of being whiny Rockets fans, but after the All-Star game, it’s pretty evident that James Harden is still the most hated player in the NBA. But the best part about it? He continues to make anyone who’s hating eat a healthy helping of crow.
The first sign of disrespect was the All-Star player draft, when Harden was picked next-to-last out of the starters (only Trae Young was picked later) despite being the only one of the All-Star starters besides the two captains to have won the MVP award.
Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo — who somehow gets a pass for jack-assy behavior like throwing vicious elbows in an All-Star game — used the excuse for not drafting Harden: “I want somebody that’s going to pass the ball.
Meanwhile, he’s speaking about a former NBA assist leader (11.2 per in 2017) who hasn’t averaged less than 7 dimes per contest in 6 years. Harden responded by leading his All-Star team in assists (tied at 6 with LeBron James and Chris Paul) despite playing just 18 minutes for the entire game. Meanwhile, Giannis finished with just 4 assists in 31 minutes.
Then the Greek Freak disrespected Harden again. Despite the fact that Harden put the absolute clamps down defensively in the fourth quarter, shutting down Giannis, Pascal Siakam, and Joel Embiid in the post — while getting a key block on Siakam — all the while doing some key work against Kyle Lowry on the perimeter, Giannis continued to offer The Beard some rent-free space in his head.
Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo on Team Giannis’s late-game offensive strategy in All-Star Game: “Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding. That’s who we thought we had an opportunity to score on.” pic.twitter.com/LCBlHk50eD— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 17, 2020
Meanwhile, here’s the results of that strategy.
"Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding. That’s who we thought we had an opportunity to score on.” pic.twitter.com/lUzrbAbeNF— Disney Gary Clark (@Itamar_17) February 17, 2020
I guess the team captain didn’t spend much time reading the scouting report, nor paying attention to pretty much anything that’s being going on in the NBA over the last three or four seasons.
James Harden is in the 95th percentile in post-up defense. Opposing players are shooting 26.8% against him on post-ups. He's always been a good post-up defender, so don't understand this strategy. If you want to "take advantage" of Harden defensively, posting him up isn't optimal https://t.co/hARx2zSykt— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) February 17, 2020
But yet somehow, Giannis will continue to get a pass for making ridiculous, obviously un-true statements, and generally acting like a tool (I mean, seriously, who throws ‘bows in the All-Star game), while Harden gets eviscerated for saying the media likes to vote for narratives (anyone who doesn’t think this is true either knows nothing about how this stuff works or is kidding themselves).
It actually reminds me a lot of Shaquille O’Neal in that regard. Shaq could throw ‘bows, he could use his immense girth to fat people out of the way, he could make ridiculous antagonistic comments to his opponents, and even borderline racist ones to Yao Ming, but he still got a pass because he was good quote, or a mediocre rapper, or a terrible movie star or something (who really knows — maybe The General does).
Meanwhile, Harden was the only All-Star starter on either team with a positive plus-minus following the game, led his team in assists, finished with 2 blocks, which was second on Team Lebron and only one fewer than Giannis, and he hit what would have been the game-winning three, only to have it waived off on a dubious, borderline push-off.
I guess if he would’ve just intentionally elbowed someone in the face instead, everything would’ve been okay.
It’s just an All-Star Game, but it became a perfect referendum on the hypocrisy and double standards of NBA fans and media and the Freak’s weird obsession with Harden. Seriously, the best path to victory was challenging one of the NBA’s top post defenders over the last three seasons directly in the post? So rent free that The Freak’s basketball IQ dropped about 25 points over the weekend.
The only good news is that it appears we have a budding rivalry, so if these teams meet in the Finals, we might actually see some ‘80s and ‘90s-style animosity instead of the kumbaya moments we’re used to in the modern game.
Anyway, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Harden will continue get no respect until he wins a ring. If only he could have the same postseason success as Giannis, aMiRiGhT?