JAMES Harden sees the Houston Rockets guards and wingmen flourishing with the presence of a legitimate threat in the middle in superstar acquisition Dwight Howard.
Harden said the muscular 6-foot-10 Howard was a crucial inside the paint during the Rockets’ 116-96 rout of the Indiana Pacers even if the former Los Angeles Laker struggled in the first-ever NBA preseason game to be held in the Philippines on Thursday night.
Howard, acquired by the Rockets in a blockbuster off-season, only had nine points, but helped spread the floor for the team with his towering presence inside.
Nonetheless, Harden likes the prospects of having a legitimate big man aside from Omer Asik, who sat out the Manila game due to a calf injury, by attracting a lot of attention from the defense in the post.
“They open a lot of space, that gives us (guards) an opportunity to make easy shots. I’m happy to have those guys on the team,” said Harden, a three-time Manila visitor.
“Our fours are pretty good shooters, very versatile, can pass the ball and shoot it. It makes them difficult to guard,” he added.
Harden had a game-high 21 points but credited their defense in the early goings, now anchored by Howard, for their preseason victory against the Pacers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
He said the Rockets’ fast 12-0 start and holding a 15-point spread in the first period had something to do with their defense.
“Our defense was phenomenal. First quarter, I think we had a 15-point lead so just getting stops and creating points off turnovers,” said Harden.
“Obviously having Dwight (Howard), he really helped us contest shots, guards getting deflections. It is really a variety of things (on offense),” he added.
The bearded guard said the defensive effort easily led to easy points with almost everyone contributing to their cause, with Omri Caspi and Donatas Motiejunas chipping in 17 and 16 points, respectively.
“Just got good shots on the offensive end, moving the ball and finding Dwight if he is open. Our guards kept moving the ball and making easy passes to our teammates,” said Harden.