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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thinks Rockets star James Harden is ‘arguably as skilled as anybody that’s played this game’

Erik Spoelstra, James Harden

Erik Spoelstra knows a thing or two about all-time greats. The Miami Heat head man has coached the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh during his time in South Florida. Needless to say, Spoelstra understands better than most just how good the game’s best players really are compared to others playing at its highest level. Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, though, might even stand apart from the Heat’s franchise icons.

Before Miami’s game against the Rockets on Thursday, Spoelstra showered the reigning MVP with praise, calling him “as skilled as anybody that’s played this game.”

“It’s hard to prep for him just because he’s one of the best players on this planet. He’s arguably as skilled as anybody that’s played this game,” he told Mark Berman of Houston’s Fox 26. “He can get wherever he wants to go, he can be a threat from 30 feet out, he can set guys up at the three-point line but also he’s arguably the best lob passer in the league. So you just have to go after him.”

Harden seemed well on his way to a second consecutive MVP award in January, leading his undermanned squad to an 8-6 record by averaging a mind-boggling 43.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. He’s been something closer to mortal more recently, finally shedding some ball-handling duties after Chris Paul’s return, but remains by far the game’s most productive scorer on a nightly basis despite his wild streak of 32 consecutive games with at least 30 points ending earlier this week.

The Heat and Rockets, in the final matchup between longtime friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, tipoff at 6:00 p.m. EST at Toyota Center.