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Rockets’ Austin Rivers thinks Russell Westbrook has taken a backstep to James Harden’s step back

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Austin Rivers, Rockets

The Houston Rockets have had to make some adjustments to jump to a 7-3 start to the 2019-20 season, but for bench cog Austin Rivers, there is no one making a bigger tweak than Russell Westbrook. In a recent piece by Michael Pina of SB Nation, Rivers explained how Westbrook has adjusted his game and taken a backstep to Harden as the leading scorer:

“He has surprised me,” said Rivers. “I think he has adjusted his game. I mean, I think he knows James is by far our best scorer. Russ could be much more aggressive if he wanted to but I think he knows we wouldn’t win as many games because James is already shooting… James shoots a lot [laughs].

“If he was trying to average 30 every game [while] James is trying to average 30 every game, it’d just be a shit show, and guys would start to say stuff and be unhappy because everybody wants the ball, you know what I mean? I think he took a backstep in scoring for James … I think he’s looking to pass even more than he ever has.”

Both Westbrook and Harden have led the league in assists before, but it’s Harden’s mastery of drawing fouls and running a half-court offense that has made him the default go-to weapon for this offense.

Harden isn’t shooting the ball remarkably well, but he has made a killing from the foul line, averaging a whopping 15.1 free-throw attempts per game. Part of that is Westbrook allowing his backcourt teammate to take over and dominate the ball while he makes the fast break his meal ticket — a recipe that has so far worked for the highly dynamic backcourt.