Doc Rivers, the former coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, shed light on the dynamics behind James Harden’s shift in performance during the last NBA season.
Harden’s disappointment over not making the All-Star Game influenced his approach, prompting him to revert back to his scoring-centric style rather than prioritizing team play.
During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Rivers shared his insights on the situation, emphasizing Harden’s impact when he embraced the role of a point guard for the Sixers in the initial phase of the season.
Regarding a hypothetical inquiry from a general manager about Harden, Rivers conveyed, “He, when playing right, … I tell everyone go to the first half of last year where he gave himself to the team, then we were the best team in the NBA for 10-20-game stretch.”
Rivers attributed a noticeable change in Harden’s behavior to the frustration stemming from his All-Star Game exclusion.
He highlighted the impressive statistics Harden had maintained during that period, making the snub all the more bewildering.
“He really was,” Rivers replied to Patrick’s inquiry about Harden’s performance, indicating that the player was thriving in his role.
However, Rivers pointed out that not being selected for the All-Star Game had a discernible impact on Harden’s mindset, leading to a significant shift in his on-court approach.
“I would say not making the All-Star team really bothered him. I thought that was egregious,” the 2008 NBA champion said.
Recalling the subsequent conversations with Harden, Rivers revealed, “He would never say this, but in my gut, I thought he changed almost immediately. I remember a game or two after that he called me and said ‘I want to start and play with the second unit more.’ And I knew exactly what that means.”
Patrick further inquired, “More shots?”
“More shots. I want to go back to attacking and playing,” Rivers affirmed, echoing Harden’s desire to prioritize scoring. Despite the challenges posed by this shift, Rivers maintained his commitment to the team’s success.
Rivers emphasized the significance of his honest relationship with Harden, highlighting the challenges and the honest dialogue that transpired between them.
Despite the ups and downs following Harden’s altered approach, Rivers remained resolute in his commitment to the team’s success and continued to offer guidance.