Ex-Houston Rockets Coach Unloads On James Harden’s Playoff Failures

James Harden, Rockets

Getty James Harden, Rockets

The main reason James Harden wanted to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets was because he felt he had to carry too much of the offensive load in Houston. Now that he has finally settled in Brooklyn, Harden can focus on being more of a playmaker and less of a scorer.

Jeff Van Gundy Unloads on James Harden

Being expected to be a playmaker and score at a high clip throughout the regular season was taking a toll on Harden’s body. As a result, Harden would notoriously flame out in the later rounds of the playoffs because his body was fatigued. Former Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy is not entertaining fatigue as an excuse for Harden coming up short in the playoffs

“I’m not buying that, that whole fatigue thing in a playoffs series,” Van Gundy said during ESPN’s Saturday Night broadcast of the Nets and Warriors game. “That is just after the fact deciding that when you didn’t play well enough that everyone wanted to give him an excuse.”

James Harden Has Come up Short in the Playoffs

Harden had some of the most head-scratching playoff blunders in recent memory during his time with the Houston Rockets. While he did have two trips to the Western Conference Finals during his eight years in Houston, when it counted most he could never quite get over the hump.

Harden and the Rockets had the defending champion Golden State Warriors on the brink of elimination in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. After winning Game 5 in Houston to take a 3-2 lead, the Rockets had two chances to wrap up the series. After losing Game 6 in The Bay despite being up double-digits, the Rockets still had a chance to win the series. Harden and the Rockets followed up that performance by Missing 27 straight threes in a Game 7 against the Warriors at home and lost the series.

The following year in the playoffs the Rockets had another shot at the Warriors. This time in the second round of the playoffs. After straining his calf in Game 5, Warriors star Kevin Durant was ruled out for at least the remainder of the series. The Rockets held Steph Curry scoreless in the first half and were in a good position to win Game 6 at home and force a Game 7. However, Curry exploded for 33 points in the second half to eliminate the Rockets on the road.

James Harden Is Having Fun Playing With the Nets

Coming to the Nets has been a breath of fresh air for the 2018 Most Valuable Player. Harden has admitted in the past that having to score at a high clip has taken the joy out of the game for him. Now that he has finally arrived in Brooklyn he can get back to enjoying playing the game that he loves.

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“The situation that I was with in Houston —consistently and every single night having to get 40 points to give ourselves a chance to win for a long extent of years— is draining,” Harden said in a recent interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols via NetsDaily. “And so, just be able to have the skill set of guys for whom you can be a playmaker and you can get guys involved and not have to worry about scoring every possession is a little big relieving for me.”


Not having to carry as heavy of an offensive role is already paying dividends for the eight-time all-star. Harden is currently leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game. With a decreased role in Brooklyn, this may be Harden’s best and last opportunity to capture that elusive first NBA Title.

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