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Players irritated by James Harden’s playing style during record-chasing feat

James Harden, Rockets

James Harden’s public pursuit of the Most Valuable Player award has at times rubbed players and media alike the wrong way, as they have become irritated by the Houston Rockets guard’s scoring barrage consisting of parades to the free-throw line and step-back jumpers with unlimited attempts available to him under Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

The Beard has made drawing fouls an art style, as well as developing a move that is nearly unstoppable in his patented step-back dribble that has left many defenders in their wake. Yet that sheer mastery hasn’t stopped players from being irked at how he’s used his scoring prowess to propel himself into the MVP conversation.

“While players acknowledge Harden’s mastery, some are put off by the style: both the way the Rockets play and the way Harden expertly uses the current rules to his advantage,” wrote ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “The enforcement of freedom of movement rules and the relaxing of travel calls on his step-back — and to be clear, most of the time he executes the devastating move within the rules — have helped supercharge Harden’s season in a way that can irritate his opponents.”

Some players see James Harden as an opportunist, as he’s used the Rockets’ injury woes as an opening to shoot the ball as many times as he humanly can to reach those numbers.

Harden has logged 25 shot attempts in 21 of the 31 games in which he has scored 30 or more points since Dec. 13 and attempted 30 or more shots in 13 of those games — by far leading any other player with 15 such games out of the 45 that have taken place in the season league-wide, according to Basketball-Reference.

Such a public campaign of vying for an individual award has made players leery of Harden’s motives, as his counterpoint of having to score at that pace to keep his team afloat counteracts his statement of gunning for an individual award.

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