James Harden may need a rest.
That’s the verdict from Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni after the point guard racked up disappointing performance at the end of Houston’s Western Conference semifinal series versus the San Antonio Spurs.
D’Antoni says he was “shell-shocked” after Houston’s season-ending 39-point loss to San Antonio.
Harden, who made triple-doubles a routine matter during regular-season play, was held to 10 points in Thursday’s game 6, shooting 2 for 11 from the floor. The guard committed six turnovers.
Game 5 wasn’t much better. Harden scored 10 that night. Harden was scoreless in overtime, with three turnovers.
The poor performance was surprising after a regular season in which Harden averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. Harden missed only one game during the regular season, playing an impressive 2,947 minutes.
Asked what advice he would give his star following his post-season slump, D’Antoni said, “Understanding his limitations.”
The coach continued: "All great players think they can do everything. Maybe he does need to take a game off here and there. I feel so sorry for him because he's had an unbelievable [season]. I mean, he's had a historic year, and you can't just say, 'OK, one game ...' and all of the sudden, social media goes crazy. ... But he will get better. We will talk about it. I can help him.”
Harden took responsibility for his team’s final loss during the postgame news conference. Coaches described the MVP candidate as devastated.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey noted that the Rockets place as much responsibility on Harden – the first player in NBA history to rack up 2,000 points, 900 assists and 600 rebounds in a single season – as any player in the league.
Morey acknowledged that it’s hard to bring home a championship as a one-superstar team, however, saying he'd like to explore hiring a second-star player to pair with Harden. "Our goal is a championship," he said
"James makes progress every year,” said Morey. “That's one of the things I love about him, whether it’s improving his right hand or his leadership like he did this year. Every year, he dedicates himself to improving himself. I know that he'll do that again. That's why he's our cornerstone."