James Harden has a bit of point guard in him

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Modified: November 13, 2009 at 12:03 am •  Published: November 13, 2009
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James Harden insists he’s never considered himself capable of playing point guard. Two weeks into his NBA career, the Thunder rookie leads the league in a category normally dominated by point guards.

After dishing out eight assists in his hometown to spark the Thunder to an 83-79 win over the Los Angeles Clippers late Wednesday night at the Staples Center, Harden leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Known more for his perimeter shooting, Harden is an underrated passer. Through eight games, he’s compiled 28 assists and committed only five turnovers, an off-the-chart 5.60 ratio.

"He really understands the game,” said Oklahoma City veteran point guard Kevin Ollie. "When Russell (Westbrook) went down, we shot him off some pick-and-rolls and he made some great decisions.”

Westbrook suffered a mild sprained ankle in the third quarter. Coach Scott Brooks said Westbrook could have returned but opted to stay with Harden and Ollie, who ignited the comeback.

"I didn’t really play him at the point,” Brooks said. "I just like the way he makes decisions at the two (shooting guard). He makes plays. That’s what he needs to continue to do.”

Harden played at Artesia High School, a 30-minute drive from the Staples Center, leading the Pioneers to back-to-back state titles and a combined 66-3 record his junior and senior seasons.

A first-team All-American at Arizona State, Harden averaged 20.1 points last season. He also averaged 4.2 assists, which ranked eighth in the Pac 10.