“He's been very consistent,” Brooks said. “This is not the final improvement that James is going to have…But he's being a good, consistent basketball player right now.”
Harden's defense and inconsistency were the two biggest road blocks preventing him from cracking the starting lineup. And even though Brooks has yet to budge on tinkering with his first five, Harden is doing his best to give his coach more to think about.
Even Harden's defensive skills are improving. While he still struggles with a few mental lapses, Harden has improved as a man defender and shows flashes of quick hands that help him come up with steals and the occasional blocked shot. At Memphis on Tuesday, Harden single-handedly forced the Grizzlies into a shot-clock violation when, on the same possession, he hounded Tony Allen and Sam Young so much they both failed to get off a shot.
Harden credits extra time spent working out before practices and shootarounds as the key to his turnaround.
“Just trying to build up good, positive habits so I can be consistent night in and night out,” Harden said. “I'm expecting something good out of it. Even if I don't have a good night shooting, I'm just trying to contribute in other ways to the game.”