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    Column: Thanks for the laughs, James. But the joke's on you

    Mar 1, 2020
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    CHICAGO - When he is done chasing an NBA title he will probably never win, James Harden, if he so wishes, can have a good second act as a comedian,

    The guy is uproariously funny.

    A couple of days ago, while talking to ESPN, Harden turned a sit-down interview into a kind of stand-up comedic routine that would bring the house down at the world-famous Laugh Factory.

    "I feel like I'm the best player," Harden said with a straight face.

    He should have been immediately strapped with a straight jacket after uttering that nonsense.

    Let's give him a pass, though. He told a great joke. And I laughed so hard until I was breathless.

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    But no kidding, the best player in the NBA right now is Giannis Antetokounmpo, followed closely by what appears to be an ageless LeBron James. And I can fiddle through at least 15 other names before I stumble into one James Harden.

    In May of 2018, I was about ready to embrace Harden as the brightest star in the league. Hook, line, and sinker. All freaking in.

    But Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the visiting Golden State Warriors happened and this is what Harden did on his team's home floor with a seat in the NBA Finals on the line.

    He misfired 17 of 29 shots, went a tepid 2-for-13 from long distance. Harden did have six rebounds and six assists, but he also committed five turnovers while making at least three 200 sleep-inducing dribbles.

    "We didn't have that extra juice that we needed."

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    That's how Harden explained why the Rockets pissed away a 14-point lead in their own backyard with the fate of the universe at stake.

    The great ones find a way, the meek make excuses.

    Not once did Steph Curry gloat about being the "best player." All the poor kid ever did was take the Warriors to five straight NBA Finals appearances, going all the way three times.

    "Throughout the course of the year, I don't see double-teams of anybody else," Harden said, believing that the two-man coverage on him is a sign that he is perhaps the most dangerous scorer out there.


    Teams double-team Harden as a function of strategy, not out of fear. Multiple coverage is an easier path to victory because Harden almost always forces bad shots or make poor decisions with the ball.

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    Yes, he is averaging 35.2 points per this season compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo's 29.7. But Harden is playing 36.7 minutes per while chucking 23 field goals a contest at a 44.3 percent success rate.

    The Greek Freak, meanwhile, is playing less minutes (29.7) and shooting a far higher percentage (55.3 ) on less field goals taken an outing (19.8)

    In other words, Giannis does more with less while Harden shoots a lot more and produces a lot less efficiency. The Milwaukee Bucks are 51-8. The Rockets are 38-21.

    Now, tell me who is the better leader, the better stud.

    Harden insists it's him.

    "I wish I could just run and be seven feet and just dunk."

    The Beard had a chance to be dignified and heroic. He chose to be myopic.

    Only the blind cannot appreciate the gifts that Giannis owns - the ability to score effectively, the capacity to make others around him better, the toughness on defense, and the graceful elan with which he runs the floor.

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    Antetokounmpo is beloved around the world and China doesn't even want Harden.

    If it's any consolation, I give this failed Rocket my vote as Best Defensive Player. He sure is excellent at defending his ego, his comical flops, and the interminable free throws that all end up in a familiar place, playoffs shortcomings.

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    Let Harden talk. He is a nuisance who will make more promises for next season while doing his exit interviews sometime in late April or early May.

    Giannis, on the other hand, won't have time opening his mouth. He will be busy throughout the playoffs and his first NBA Finals.

    James Harden is welcome to watch of course.

    At home, where he always does every June.

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