Fans of the LA Clippers are dealing with a myriad of feelings surrounding James Harden at the moment. While there is much anticipation for his debut in a Clipper uniform, many are concerned with how well he will fit with the current squad.
Harden will reportedly be inserted into the starting lineup next to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. The primary question leading up to his first appearance with the team has been whether he will enhance the performance of the Clippers’ current core of players or detract from them.
The answer will be revealed in due time, but for now, Head Coach Tyronn Lue’s statement about how he plans to use James Harden is less than encouraging. NBA writer Adam Zagoria reported that Lue intends for Harden to play off the ball and continue to allow Westbrook to operate at point guard.
Tyronn Lue’s plan for James Harden seems far-fetched
In theory, this idea actually makes a lot of sense. Putting the ball in Westbrook’s hands so he is not relegated to standing in the corner where defenders can sag off him is very much the right move for the Clippers.
But it is the real-world application of this idea where things start to become questionable. Primarily because “James Harden” and “play off the ball” are two phrases that have scarcely ever gone together.
Harden obviously made a living for much of his career as a ball-dominant three-level scorer. And at his peak, he was one of the best scorers on the planet. But now that he is largely past his prime, the task of taking a back seat and learning to thrive off-ball seems like it will be a bit of an uphill battle for the former MVP.
Doing so will require reversing a lot of Harden’s muscle memory when it comes to decision making, ball handling and other key aspects of the game. We saw him become a high-level distributor in Philadelphia, but this will be an even more difficult transition for him.
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