Red-hot Harden making history for Rockets

Rockets’ Harden too hot to handle

James Harden

Former “SportsCenter” anchor Dan Patrick had a name for it: “en fuego.”

As in “on fire,” and James Harden is certainly that for the Houston Rockets.

Indeed, the six-time All-Star and defending NBA MVP is making a strong case for a repeat. As of early January, the 29-year-old point guard was in the midst of a historic scoring spree that saw him put up per-game averages of 39.1 points, 9.1 assists and 6.2 rebounds, to go with a 40.4 percent shooting percentage from three-point range over 15 games.

And the Rockets have certainly taken advantage of Harden’s tear, going 12-3 from Dec. 8 to Jan. 7, thus vaulting what was a previously struggling team back into the playoff conversation in the Western Conference and to the top spot in the Southwest Division.

So dominant, in fact, has the man dubbed “The Beard” been this season – he’s averaged 33.7 points, 8.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds in 2018-19 – that his scoring prowess has been compared to that of NBA legends such as Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

“You could argue for him as the best offensive player of all time,” said Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey after Harden sank the Golden State Warriors in overtime with a near-impossible 29-footer on Jan. 3. “To be able to say that with a straight face, and not have it be GM speak or coach speak, is pretty amazing.”

Harden and the Rockets face a tough conference rival Saturday, Feb. 9, when they play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game airing on ABC.

James Harden

Full name: James Edward Harden Jr.

Birth date: Aug. 26, 1989

Birthplace: Bellflower, Calif.

Height/weight: 6 feet, 5 inches/220 pounds

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-12); Houston Rockets (2012-present)

College: Arizona St.

Draft: Selected first round (third overall) by the Thunder in 2009

Position: point guard

No.: 13

Honors and achievements: 2018 NBA MVP; six-time NBA All-Star; four-time All-NBA First Team; 2018 NBA scoring champion; 2017 NBA assists leader; 2012 NBA Sixth Man of the Year; 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year; his number 13 jersey was retired by Arizona St.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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