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Austin Rivers, Mike D’Antoni laud James Harden’s defense

Rockets, Austin Rivers, Mike D'Antoni, James Harden

Fair or not, Houston Rockets All-Star James Harden is often viewed as a poor defender. This season, however, The Beard is making a conscious effort to step his game up on that end of the floor. How is he doing this, you ask? Head coach Mike D’Antoni and teammate Austin Rivers say the former No. 3 overall pick is being a lot more vocal on the floor.

“A lot of it is defense,” Rockets guard Austin Rivers said, via USA Today. “People may find that surprising, but I think he’s trying to make that an emphasis on him for himself. It forces him to be locked in on that end of the floor. He asks during every free throw who everybody has. Little things like that that he would never do in the past.”

D’Antoni echoed Rivers’ sentiments, confirming that Harden is indeed talking more on defense this season:

“Sometimes he gets tired and sometimes he’ll take a play off, but all superstars do that,” D’Antoni said of Harden. “He always has been one of the best post defenders in the league. He allows us to be able to switch easily. He can guard post players. Now he’s taking it on himself to be in the right position and always talking.”

The fact that Harden is being more vocal on defense is great for the Rockets, but his outstanding offensive production is what drives the team. This season is no different. In fact, he’s currently leading the league in scoring by a wide margin with a career-high 38.9 points per game. And yes, he is playing defense, as his 1.9 steals per game can attest.

The Rockets improved to 18-9 with Monday night’s 109-107 come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, James Harden had 28 and Houston set a franchise record by overcoming a 25-point deficit.

Houston will look to keep its momentum rolling on Thursday night, when they’ll travel to Los Angeles for a matchup against the Clippers.