HOUSTON — A baby-faced, 20-year-old James Harden reported to training camp for his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009.

Way before “The Beard” persona emerged, he came off the bench while playing alongside rising stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The left-handed shooting guard also left an early impression on his more experienced teammate Thabo Sefolosha.

A decade later, the former teammates are now competing on rival Western Conference teams with the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets for the second straight postseason.

“He’s always been a helluva player,” said Sefolosha, who played three seasons with Harden from 2009-12 before being traded to Houston. “Even in OKC, with limited time, coming off the bench, he was really effective with his minutes, with his touches and you can see that now.

“The way he dissects the game, understands the defense and picks it apart — it’s pretty unique.”

During Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday, Harden’s uniqueness was certainly on display as he led the Rockets to a 122-90 victory with 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Sefolosha did defend him for six possessions, where Harden went 1-for-2 with four points against him.

“He’s always been a helluva player. …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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