James Harden isn’t worried about the criticism and concern from some about his pairing with new teammate Russell Westbrook. After the Houston Rockets struck a blockbuster deal to reunite the duo which spent three years together with the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s created the NBA’s best backcourt.
But many analysts, reporters and fans are skeptical about whether Harden and Westbrook will be able to coexist now. During a recent Q&A, Harden spoke with the media about the subject and spoke about playing alongside the former Thunder star. As The Athletic’s Kelly Iko revealed, he made it known how excited he is while also addressing the critics (transcribed by The Athletic’s Alykhan Bijani).
“We were teammates for three years. Now we’re at a different stage in our careers. I’m just excited. I’m excited for the opportunity. We hear a lot of negative criticism. ‘They can’t, they can’t, they can’t’. But we’ll figure it out…” Harden stated.
It’s fully known how close Harden and Westbrook are, so there’s plenty of reason to believe that on-court chemistry won’t be an issue. But even looking back at their three seasons with the Thunder offered a glimpse of what to expect from the duo in 2019-20 and beyond.
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James Harden & Russell Westbrook’s Stats Together
Harden and Westbrook first took the court together during the 2009-10 season, which was the first year of the former’s career. While Harden didn’t see the type of minutes Westbrook did during their time together, he progressively improved his game in each season before both players impressed in 2011-12.
During their third and final year sharing the floor with the Thunder, both players racked up career-high marks in scoring (to that point). Westbrook posted 23.6 points while Harden averaged 16.8 points per game, and the growth of both players was largely what led to Oklahoma City having to trade a member of their core.
Possibly the most impressive part of Westbrook and Harden’s ability to grow their game and improve in a number of categories was who they shared the court with. Kevin Durant, who averaged 30.1, 27.7 and 28.0 points per game over the three-year span, was the primary scorer and attempted 19.7 shot attempts or more in each season.
Rockets’ New-Look Roster With Harden & Westbrook
Along with the Rockets’ new star backcourt duo, Houston still has a number of other talented pieces and should be in the mix to compete for the NBA title this season and many more to come. While there’s no set decision on how the team’s starting lineup will look, Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker will surely be in the first five.
Beyond that, the Rockets have Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Danuel House, Gerald Green and free-agent signings Deyonta Davis and Tyson Chander. One other interesting signing which grabbed some attention was the deal to bring in former No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett, who’s widely considered as one of the NBA’s biggest busts to this point in his career.
Overall, the Rockets have put together a strong roster and one that looks capable of competing with the top groups in the NBA. Their new star duo will have some serious work to do, though, as there are a few other elite pairings in the Western Conference now, including LeBron James/Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard/Paul George.