One particular trade deal during the 2019 NBA off-season, amongst many, shook the entire basketball industry. Two offensive masterminds and league MVP’s were bound to reunite in Clutch City: 2018 NBA MVP James Harden and 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. It leads to an obvious question by many NBA fans: What does the Russell Westbrook and James Harden relationship look like?
These two are the only players in the league to score more than 10,000 points since the start of the 2014-15 regular season. Analysts and fans both wondered how two of the league’s most ball-dominant players can form a daunting and cohesive backcourt. But seeing the numbers both players have put up as we entered the new decade, perhaps the former MVPs sent everyone’s doubts out the door.
Westbrook struggled in his early days as a Rocket but as the calendar turned to the new year, the backcourt duo ranked No. 15 in points per possession in 2019-2020, averaging 110.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Russell Westbrook and James Harden relationship
“Harden can dissect a defense with his nearly unstoppable offensive abilities and Westbrook can wear you down play-by-play on both sides of the ball because he refuses to let up.”
Harden’s isolation-ball prowess racks up the opponent’s defense and while he can very much drive hard to the board, he’ll sneak an assist to Russ who either puts the ball up for a perimeter shot or drives it home. In every game, both players seek to establish their presence on the court: Harden with his signature step-back threes and Russ’ with his explosive triple-doubles. The dynamism of this duo, in a league that fostered legendary trios, spectacularly dominates the floor just under their opponent’s noses
At the moment, they are the only pair in league history to average 25 points and seven assists per game in the same season. Is it a shock to the league? Not quite as Russ and Harden have not only played for the same team (Oklahoma City) in their younger years, they are also childhood friends.
In an interview with GQ Sports, James Harden is quoted:
“We’ve formed into the players that we want to be, in terms of superstar status. We had opportunities to be at the top, at the peak; he won an MVP and I won an MVP. It’s not like me and Russ were just teammates in Oklahoma City for three years. We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. There’s a different kind of relationship and communication that we have, a different type of excitement that we have for each other.”
Harden and Russ have definitely put up historic numbers but now the future of this duo in the season seems uncertain as Westbrook tests positive for COVID-19 and we can only hope for his speedy recovery. The Rockets currently sit No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40-24.
So, maybe no one knows what the Russell Westbrook and James Harden relationship is like off the court, but on it, it’s vital to the Houston Rockets.