After Paul George’s injury and Kevin Durant’s decision not to participate, Team USA was left wanting for a leader. In stepped James Harden.
“James has been as good a leader as we’ve had for this team,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said, via USAB.com. “He has a great personality. He is an upbeat guy, smart, and he’s obviously very, very talented. With this group, especially after Kevin left, he has asserted himself even more as an older guy. I know him, he knows me, because we have worked together. He’s really one of our key guys. There is no question about it.”
Harden has come a long way since being Sixth Man of the Year on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost to the Heat in the NBA Finals a few years ago. In OKC, he stood in the shadow of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. That came easy to him — he’d put up 30 in a night. In Houston, he’s become the guy. He’s the key to the Rockets’ offense.
Coach K was asked whether he thought Harden’s move from Oklahoma City to Houston helped his maturation process.
“I don’t how maturity develops when I’m not around it all the time,” Krzyzewski said. “I just know that he’s one of the best players in the NBA. And having this responsibility here will only make him better. These guys get better after playing in this, because they go to places that they don’t necessarily go to on their own teams, whether it be in a subordinate role at times, a leadership role, the key player, the good talker, or whatever. James checks every box. I love James. We have a great, great relationship. That communication between the two of us can translate to even better communication with the guys on the court.”