Rockets' Harden in a stratosphere of his own

Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:51pm EST
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By Jahmal Corner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Houston Rockets guard James Harden has evolved into the National Basketball Association's most lethal scorer, his offensive arsenal growing as full as his rampant beard.

Watching Harden attack a defense is a study in variety: there are step-back jumpers, quick dribble drives and frequent trips to the free-throw line.

That formula has made Harden basketball's toughest cover, and launched the shooting guard into a new stratosphere as one of the faces of the NBA.

"He's definitely a tremendous offensive talent," Rockets teammate Trevor Ariza told Reuters following Houston's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. "He's someone that can score in a variety of ways and causes a lot of problems."

Harden, 25, has been a headache for opponents all season as he is averaging a league-leading 27.4 points per game.

He enters the NBA's All-Star Weekend, where he will start for the Western Conference on Sunday, with six 40-point games and countless highlight-reel plays.

"There are guys that really step up and have phenomenal years – LeBron has done that (in the past). (Harden) is having a phenomenal year this year," Rockets coach Kevin McHale told Reuters. "We got him from Oklahoma City three years ago and he's just gotten better and better."

When Houston traded for Harden and signed him to a max contract before the 2012-13 season many believed they overpaid.   Continued...

Feb 10, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) points to the sky against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Rockets won 127-118. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports