James Harden has stepped up since Jeff Green's trade

Thunder backup shooting guard James Harden has averaged 17.7 points per game since the All-Star break.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 21, 2011

No one needed to say anything to James Harden.

When Jeff Green was dealt to Boston three weeks ago in the trade that brought Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, Harden knew immediately that he needed to be more productive.

“We had to make up for those 15 points that we lost,” Harden said. “Everybody's level of play had to step up.”

Harden, though, shot up to a level few thought he could reach — at least not this quickly.

In 15 games since the All-Star break, Harden has averaged 17.7 points. That total trails only Dallas' Jason Terry for points off the bench over that span. Harden's 50.6 percent shooting over that same span, meanwhile, ranks fifth among shooting guards with at least 10 games played.

By comparison, Harden averaged just 10.3 points on 41.3 percent shooting prior to the All-Star break. The turnaround has transformed the second-year guard into one of the league's best Sixth Men.

“When we made the trade, I didn't go to James and say, ‘James, we need six more points out of you. And you need to do it or else you're not going to play,'” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I didn't quite say it that way.”

Brooks simply encouraged Harden the way he always had — urging him to be aggressive, imploring him to shoot when he's open.

Green's departure, however, created an increased opportunity that would instantly lend Harden more leeway. Harden averaged 25 minutes prior to Perkins-Green swap. He's garnered five more per game since.

“Since the trade, he's played some good minutes,” Brooks said. “But he's earned them. He's played well. We weren't just going to give him extra minutes. I think that's a mistake sometimes the league makes. Guys get minutes that are not earned, but James earned the extra minutes. He's playing well. He's scoring, he's defending, he's rebounding, he's playmaking and it's all because of the work he's put in. It's well-deserved.”

Harden admits his confidence has grown to perhaps its highest level since joining the franchise as the No. 3 overall pick in 2009. One performance helped make that possible.

Two games into the post-Green era, Harden scored 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. But more than his offense, Harden's defense — the end that has long held him back — created confidence. Harden tag-teamed with Thabo Sefolosha to limit Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant to 17 points on 8-for-22 shooting. Bryant had a team-high four turnovers and shot 3-for-11 in the fourth quarter.

Trending Now


  1. 1
    Oklahoma State alum sues Sports Illustrated over 'Dirty Game' series
  2. 2
    George Clooney rejects Mail apology
  3. 3
    Bomb threat at Lexington Correctional facilities under investigation
  4. 4
    LeBron James returning to Cleveland Cavaliers
  5. 5
    North Korea Complains to UN About Seth Rogen Movie
+ show more