Rockets star James Harden doing more weight lifting to prepare for playoffs
In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Harden shared that he is doing a lot more weightlifting this season so that he doesn’t flame out deep into their playoff run.
“This year I’ve been doing a lot more weightlifting just to make sure my legs and my body will hold up. I’ve always lifted, but this year I put more emphasis on it just because I’m 10 years in. So I gotta make sure my body is strong enough to be able to last.”
Harden’s past playoff runs ended earlier than he would have desired as there simply wasn’t enough left in his tank to push the Rockets further into the post-season.
In 2015, Harden arguably had his worst game of the year in their elimination game against the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. He shot just 2-of-11 from the field en route to 14 points, and committed an all-time playoff high 12 turnovers as the Rockets bowed out in five games.
A repeat of 2015 happened in the 2017 playoffs, as Harden once again had his worst game of the year with their season on the line against the San Antonio Spurs, who were without then-Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. Harden just looked so gassed in Game 6 as he also interestingly went 2-of-11 from the field. He finished with a mere 10 points in the most important game for the Rockets that season.
In 2018, Houston had its best chance to knock off the almighty Golden State Warriors. The Rockets had the defending champions on the ropes, up 3-1 in the series. However, with Chris Paul getting injured at the latter end of game 4, the Warriors made their comeback in the series. Golden State’s depth proved to be too much for Harden to carry the Rockets alone for the rest of the series, as they ultimately failed to close out the Warriors, even if they had held a sizable lead against them in the close-out Games 6 and 7.
Harden is once again carrying Houston on his back this season as they have been saddled with injuries throughout the year. As a result, the former Arizona State standout is having a season of historic proportions, averaging an absurd 36.6 points per game, which is the most since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. In addition, his usage this season ranks second all-time behind Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 MVP campaign.
Moreover, Harden is currently in the midst of a historic 31-game streak of 30 or more points dating back from December 13 of last year. The four-time All-NBA First Team member is averaging an insane 41.5 points over this stretch and is hoisting up nearly 27 attempts from the field per game and over 15 three-point attempts per contest.
If Harden wants to preserve himself for the post-season, it would be wise for him to scale back a bit as early as now so that he doesn’t burn himself out once again when the Rockets eventually find themselves in the midst of a deep playoff run.