The Houston Rockets have risen as a Western Conference power under James Harden’s guidance, and the acquisition of Chris Paul has pushed them into contender status.
Whether they can beat the Golden State Warriors, decked with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and a supporting cast that’s helped them capture two NBA championship in the past three seasons is another question.
The Rockets were one of the biggest surprises of the season, with Harden cementing himself in the Most Valuable Player conversation while head coach Mike D’Antoni re-established himself as one of the best coaches in the NBA when it comes to constructing an offense.
Harden and Paul might be the biggest threat to the Warriors next season, with the San Antonio Spurs standing pat and Cleveland Cavaliers going through a huge shift sans Kyrie Irving. The window for Houston may be now, and Harden sees the Warriors as a beatable team.
“Don’t get me wrong they’re very very talented, but they’re beatable. You’ve gotta get the right players, you’ve gotta have the right personnel, you’ve gotta be able to score with them and get scores with meaning. “You’ve gotta be able to shoot the ball at a high level.
“I think our system fits that, and I think our personnel now fits that as well,” Harden told ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Michael Smith during an appearance on SC6.
Harden also acknowledged there will be a learning curve for both he and Paul as they feel out how they work best together. Both guards are used to being primary ball-handlers.
“Just to communicate,” Harden said of the biggest adjustment they have to make together. “I think we’ve been both ball dominant so much these last few years that we’ll get a lot more catch and shoot opportunities, so we’ve gotta keep telling ourselves when we’re open just shoot the ball.
“Once we get comfortable with each other, he’s very smart, I’m smart, things will work itself out.”
As far as how he was able to secure a commitment from Paul to join the Rockets, Harden said it was all about having the “same goal” when asked how it played out.
“That we’ve got the same goal. We’re both trying to win. There’s one team out there that’s winning, they’ve been to the finals three years in a row and they won two out of three. One team to compete against, one team to go try to get, and we’re on the same page with that,” Harden concluded.