New Los Angeles Clippers star guard James Harden gave his introductory press conference with the team Thursday afternoon in Southern California.
There were obviously some interesting soundbites from the enigmatic former NBA MVP after he forced his way from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Harden seemingly took a shot at his former head coach with the 76ers, Doc Rivers. He also provided an eye-opening quote that could end up being a harbinger of things to come under Tyronn Lue in Los Angeles.
“I think the game and I am a creator on the court. So, if I got a voice to where I can say ‘hey coach, I see this. What do you think about this?’ Someone that trusts in me. Someone that believes in me. That understands me. That I am not a system player. I am a system.”James Harden during Clippers intro presser
It’s the latter part of this quote that stands out the most. Is Harden saying he’s not going to buy into a system? Is he indicating that he needs a system created for him?
If this is indeed the case, it won’t end up sitting well with another veteran head coach in Tyronn Lue who legitimately has his own system. It’s definitely not going to sit well heading to a team that already has three future Hall of Famers in that of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
He will not be the system for a championship contending Clippers team with core pieces already built in. You can take that to the bank.
Now, an argument can be made that he was limited or put “on a leash” under Rivers in Philadelphia. As it should be, that entire system surrounds reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid.
James Harden’s system comments seem to be a dig at Doc Rivers
Harden’s departure from Philadelphia was more about his fractured relationship with 76ers general manager Daryl Morey. When the former NBA MVP called Morey a liar and indicated he’d never play for the organization again, that was pretty much it.
“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said back in August. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
Harden, who was fined $100,000 for those comments by the NBA, continued to maintain this stance as he forced himself to the Clippers earlier this week.
But his issues in Philadelphia last season had to do with former 76ers head coach Doc Rivers more than anything else. Doc explained what went down after the Sixers fired him following the 2022-23 campaign.
“When playing right, I tell everyone to go back to the first half of last year where he (Harden) gave himself to the team. We were the best team in the NBA for a 10-20 game stretch, and obviously we have Joel, Tyrese, and Tobias, but we were because James was being a point guard.
It’s funny; a coach called me and said, ‘I never thought anyone could get him to do that.’ And he did! For a short term. If you could keep him in that and not want to chase numbers — the thirst of scoring — then you have a terrific player.”Doc Rivers on James Harden, via Sports Illustrated
Harden ended up leading the NBA in assists with the 76ers last season, dishing out 10.7 per game. However, his point-per game average of 21.0 was Harden’s lowest since he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2011-12.
Coincidentally enough, that iteration of the Thunder included two more-proven players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the dynamics play out between Harden and the Clippers after his comments. Taken at face value, they were probably a dig at Rivers and the 76ers. But when you look further into their meaning, it could lead to the belief that issues await in Southern California.
That’s why they play the games. We’ll see soon enough just how well Harden works with the core three in Los Angeles. If the veteran guard believes he’s going to be the system, he’s in for a rude awakening. That’s for sure.