OAKLAND, Calif. &mdash On back-to-back nights over the weekend, James Harden faced Tyreke Evans in Sacramento and battled Stephen Curry at Golden State.
The second-year Thunder guard had to swallow his pride at the sight of both of them enjoying individual success.
This weekend's encounter could be much more difficult to deal with.
While Curry and Evans will be starring for the Sophomore squad in this year's Rookie Challenge at All-Star Weekend, Harden will be reduced to a spectator at the event, which happens to be in his hometown of Los Angeles. And Harden has the harsh reality of knowing he was picked ahead of both players, one spot before No. 4 overall pick Evans and four slots ahead of seventh overall pick Curry.
But Thunder fans shouldn't view Harden's exclusion in Friday night's event as a statement on the type of season he's having. While it's natural to make early judgments on young players and often evaluate them by pitting them against their peers from the same draft class, it's important to realize Harden is in a different place. Writing him off now would be unwise and unfair.
Harden hasn't been the most consistent performer in his 1 1/2 seasons in Oklahoma City. That much has been well-documented. But what barely gets mentioned is how Harden has accepted a secondary role and, more often than not, turned in satisfactory showings.
Harden has never complained. He's never asked out, and he's never been anything but supportive of his teammates and committed to maintaining a positive attitude.
“I've never seen him down,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.