Doc Rivers on Houston: ‘They have the MVP’


I’ll let you decide if the comments are that of “I’m playing them tonight so let’s say something nice” or “I mean what I say”, but Clippers head coach Doc Rivers kinda sorta gives his mid-season pick for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, with Houston Rockets guard James Harden being Rivers’ selection.

Given the landscape of the MVP race, picking Harden isn’t a crime. In fact, many believe Harden to be the frontrunner as the guard has led his Rockets near the top of the Western Conference without much from teammates Dwight Howard (injuries: knee) and Terrence Jones (injuries: knee) — this season, Harden is averaging 27.3 points on 45-38-86 shooting splits, 5.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. To be specific, prior to tonight’s matchup with the Clippers, the Rockets stand third in the hectic Western Conference with a record of 38-18

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  • Harden’s competition in the race? To some, one man. In comparison to a recent past, the only thing familiar with this MVP race is that it has typically come down to two individuals. Dating back to the 2011-12 NBA season, the race had been between megastars Kevin Durant and LeBron James, with James winning two and Durant winning last years; in 2010-11, between James and Derrick Rose; in 2009-10, between Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul; in 2008-09, between James and Dwyane Wade. The list goes on and on and the 2014-15 race pretty much mimics such as Stephen Curry stands aside Harden as a lead candidate. If you believe the best player on the league’s best team is most deserving of the award, Curry is your guy, but factoring in the load carried, Harden’s burden outweigh’s Curry’s who is helped by the likes of Klay Thompson, one of the league’s best shooting guard, Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green, arguable front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year, and several other key pieces that trumps Harden’s supporting cast.

    Of course, if history is to predict the near future, fans won’t get a glimpse of an MVP caliber player tonight when the Clippers and Rockets face off.

    For his career, Harden has performed far below normal standards, speaking to both his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. In 18 career games (8 starts), Harden is averaging 13.4 points on 34% shooting (24% from three), all lows in comparison to what he’s done against the rest of the league.

    As a Rocket, the struggles are both on the stat sheet and in the win column. In his seven games versus the Clippers with the Rockets, Harden has shot below 42 percent in each game and in four of the seven, Harden has scored below 20 points; in each of those games, the Rockets have fallen to the Clippers.

    Why Harden struggles against the Clippers? Nobody knows. He’s one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA and in past years, the Clippers haven’t employed the most elite of defensive wing players in the NBA. The Clippers’ best defensive wing dating back to Harden’s arrival to Houston? Veteran Matt Barnes. The other wings? Shooting guards Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick and other low-name wings who’ve played in minimal roles.

    For the Clippers’ sake, they’ll hope Harden’s struggles continue as the franchise, but if Harden delivers tonight, it’ll be just another night for the MVP.

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