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James Harden: When Will the Rocket Superstar Blast Off?

Through+the+first+three+games%2C+James+Harden+shot+9.3+percent+%283-32%29+from+the+three-point+line.
Through the first three games, James Harden shot 9.3 percent (3-32) from the three-point line.

Through the first three games, James Harden shot 9.3 percent (3-32) from the three-point line.

Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY Sports

Through the first three games, James Harden shot 9.3 percent (3-32) from the three-point line.

Sahil Bhutani, Online Editor

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The Rockets began the season historically poorly: they lost their first three games by 20 points each. They have since gotten somewhat back on track with a big win against the Thunder and a win in overtime against the Magic, but James Harden still has not broken out.

The most glaring issue is Harden’s jump shot; he’s in a shooting slump, to say the least. This is not completely unfamiliar territory, as James has started out past seasons shooting the ball poorly, but this slump is the worst by far. Through the first three games, Harden shot 9.3 percent (3-32) from the three-point line.

Harden’s defense is problematic, as well. Two seasons ago, his poor defense became the laughingstock of the league as it was pointed out in this viral video compilation. He responded with much improved defense last year. Unfortunately, he seems to have reverted back to his old ways, constantly getting beat off the dribble and losing his man on the weak side.

Questions about Harden’s work ethic and commitment to the game have emerged, as he was seen partying with rapper Meek Mill in Miami the night before the Rockets blew a 21-point second-half lead to the Miami Heat. Harden went 2-15 (13 percent) from the field, including 0-10 from the three-point line in that game.

Additionally, last summer he had the benefit of playing basketball for Team USA, and started off last season notably better. It is possible the lack of such an obligation this summer caused Harden to slack off, but we will never know.

The one bright spot is Harden’s performance against his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 38 minutes, he posted a stat line of 37 points on 46.2 percent shooting (33.3 percent from three), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and just 1 turnover.

Oddly enough, Harden proceeded to struggle in the next game against the Magic, shooting 27.3 percent from the field (18.2 percent from three) and committing 7 turnovers, a season-high.

The Rockets made it to the Conference Finals last year. With the addition of point guard Ty Lawson, they are hoping to contend for a title this year. This is especially difficult in the tight Western Conference, but it will be even more difficult until James Harden answers the question: when will he show up?

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James Harden: When Will the Rocket Superstar Blast Off?