James Harden ready to run Houston high-octane offense as Rockets preseason off to hot start
James Harden has shown his readiness to be coach Mike D'Antoni's top playmaker, averaging 23.3 points and 12 assists in three preseason games for the Rockets. AP

PRESEASON statistics often can be misleading.

That might not be the case with James Harden right now.

After three preseason games, Harden has three points-assists double-doubles — the most recent one Sunday in Shanghai, when he had 26 points and 15 assists to help the Houston Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-117 in an NBA Global Games matchup.

"We're treating every game of preseason like the regular season in order to build good habits," Harden said. "We don't take the preseason lightly"

Clearly not.

The Rockets are 3-0 in exhibitions so far this fall, scoring 131, 130 and now 123 points in those games. Harden is averaging 23.3 points and 12 assists in those three games.

And fans in China, where the Rockets are enormously popular anyway — thanks in large part to Yao Ming — have taken to Harden as well, with many sporting fake beards on Sunday to mimic his look.

"Great atmosphere," Harden said.

They'll be seeing even more NBA in China this season. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Sunday an expansion of the NBA's partnership with BesTV, one that will see up to 1,300 games per season broadcast in China.

"It's a multimedia partnership that brings the very best in television and technology to the NBA in China," Silver said.

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