The James Harden era has officially begun for the LA Clippers, but his debut with the team did not go quite as expected. While Harden’s first outing as a Clipper was far from awful on the stat sheet, his presence ultimately did not lead to a winning brand of basketball.
Unfortunately, his early performance is reflective of what some considered to be the worst-case scenario for for the Clippers with him in the locker room. The concern among many was that Harden, despite his improvement as a playmaker, would spend too much time with the ball in his hands.
Early returns are showing that this will be what happens with Harden on the floor. His need to have the ball in his hands took away opportunities from teammates like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
James Harden has already begun taking the ball out of Kawhi and PG’s hands
On Monday night, James Harden scored 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting and logged six assists. While this is a solid individual stat line, his presence still ended up detracting from other players around him who also generally need the ball in their hands to succeed.
For example, Paul George recorded by far his lowest number of shot attempts this season in Harden’s debut. After putting up 17 shot attempts in his first four games of the season and 16 shot attempts in his fifth game, George got off just 11 shots against the Knicks.
Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers in scoring on Monday with 18 points, but he did it on 12 fewer shot attempts than his previous outing against the Lakers. The only two games where he put up less shots this season were the Magic game where he intentionally shot less on an uncharacteristic off night, and the Spurs game where he played his least minutes of the season.
There is obviously a lot of time for problems to be worked out, but these early developments are far from promising for James Harden and the Clippers. If his time in LA ends in disappointment, we will not be able to say the warning signs were not there.