Time can alter one’s perception of an event or experience – unless that event or experience is James Harden’s no-show in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. Harden – an MVP front-runner in many NBA circles – had just 10 points, seven assists, and three rebounds in Houston’s season-ending 114-75 loss to the Spurs last Thursday.
The sentiment surrounding Harden’s performance – or lack thereof – didn’t change over the weekend.
“It’s despicable,” NBA Radio and Miami Heat TV host Jason Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “There’s not a better way to put that for me, and I don’t feel like I’m being harsh because I’m just speaking on the merits of what everybody is giving us. We’ve asked if there was an injury. We’ve asked if there was an issue. Coach (Mike) D’Antoni and James Harden keep pushing us off of those things, so fine, let’s make a decision based upon the merits. You’re at home, you have an MVP-caliber player, you’ve had the season you’ve had, and if it was credit we must give the Spurs, okay. Well then, you can’t be as good as everybody thought you were as an individual player on the team.
“The organization has to rethink itself,” Jackson continued. “I’m not talking about blowing it up. I’m just simply saying, ‘What is it that we need to do in these moments if James is going to be neutralized to be competitive?’ That game was not a competition. That was almost a warmup. The third team from the Spurs would have given the first team a little more of a game than that.”
Houston trailed by seven after the first quarter, by 19 at halftime, by 23 after the third quarter and lost by 39.
It was ugly.
“Compare what happened with Washington with their back against the wall at home to what we saw (with) Houston,” Jackson said, referring to the Wizards’ 92-91 over Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semis last Friday. “It was a despicable first half for John Wall, but did he stop trying to impact the game?”
No, he did not. In fact, he hit the game-winning three-pointer to force a Game 7 in Boston on Monday.
“And because he didn’t stop trying, he ended up making the biggest shot in franchise history over the last 40 years,” Jackson said. “That’s how you try to impact (the game). Even if you’re going to go down, if Washington did lose that game, you’re not going to feel the same way Houstonians feel now. It’s staggering and there has to be a full review.”
Even worse, D’Antoni and Harden have dealt with their failure with, in the words of Jackson, a “shoulder shrug.”
“Maybe they’re more sane than most of us,” Jackson said. “I’d be in the darkness with a (blanket) and pacifier trying to figure out what I mean to this organization, what I mean to this game, if on the biggest stage I keep coming up that short.”