Harden reflected on his last two years in the League, per USA Today,. “These last two years, it was a lot of drama, a lot of negative energy, which I don’t really like too much,” Harden said. “Whether it’s me getting out of Houston or what happened last year going into the season from last year, it was just a lot. Here, it’s just fresh; it’s a relief; it’s like, let’s just go hoop.”
And boy, is Harden hoopin’. The Beard opened the season with two stellar performances. On Tuesday night, he posted 35 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists against the defending Eastern Conference Champs, the Boston Celtics, and on Thursday, he scored 31 points, ripped down eight rebounds, and dished out nine assists against the Milwaukee Bucks.
While critics attacked the guard for his ability to stay healthy last season, Harden “can move now,” and he credits his hot start in Philly to his health and work ethic.
“I’m a workaholic, so not being able to put the work in like I normally do was frustrating,” Harden said about last season, per ESPN. “This summer, I had that opportunity to, and then even up to this point, I feel really good. So, just continue to put the work in and living with the results, and that’s what I live by — A lot of people don’t see the work that I put in. This scoring ability and all of this other stuff doesn’t come without work. So as much as people want to talk about all of this other stuff, that doesn’t really matter, I’m a workaholic, and I love to be in the gym and play basketball. So I’ll continue to do that.”
Not only has a healthy Harden returned to form with step-back threes and forceful drives that draw fouls, but he has evolved his game. The eight-time All-Star hit seven mid-range shots – a career-high and a third of his total mid-range jumpers all of last season.
“I’ve been working on my game this summer, so I just took what the defense gave me,” Harden said. “I had a couple threes that I missed, but you can’t control it. You put the work in, and you live with the results. Tonight, they gave me midrange shots, and I lived with the results.”
With back-to-back 30+ point nights, Harden joined Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson as the third player in Sixers history to score at least 30 points in his first two games of a season. Unfortunately, Harden’s phenomenal play has not been enough for the Sixers, and they fell to 0-2 after an 88-90 loss to the Bucks.
“For me, it’s not even about the individual. Individual [play] is great, and I’ll do whatever it takes for the betterment of this team, but all of us need to be playing at a high level, and that’s a part of my job”, said Harden. The Sixers host the Spurs tomorrow and look to bounce back and secure their first win of the season.
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