James Harden: 'The most underrated player in the league'

James Harden, third-year guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is candidate for NBA's Sixth Man Award
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY dmayberry@opubco.com Published: January 15, 2012
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He has pubescent kids showing up to his games wearing bushy black beards.

Adults sport T-shirts with his likeness on the front, warning you should fear his facial hair.

Opponents, well they just don't know what to do with him. So far, they haven't been able to stop him.

He's James Harden, the third-year guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After standard success in his first two seasons, Harden now has emerged as a potential star this year.

“I think James Harden is probably the most underrated player in the league. I really do,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry confessed during his team's recent visit to Oklahoma City. “He's probably as important on this team as anybody on it.”

Through his first 12 games, Harden was averaging a shade less than 17 points while pulling down 4.3 rebounds and dishing out 3.5 assists. His play has put him on a shortlist of NBA players on the brink of breaking out during the 2011-12 season.

With the Thunder, Harden has settled in as the team's sixth man, often changing the course of games with his scoring and playmaking skills the moment he bounces up as the first man off the bench.

“Playing with the second unit, he's our K.D.,” said Nazr Mohammed of Harden, comparing him to Thunder star Kevin Durant.

Distinctive beard, persona

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