Harden enters break with hot and recruiting
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
James Harden’s head will be on a swivel long before the NBA All-Star Game finally tips off on Sunday.
As the Houston Rockets’ lone All-Star and the unofficial host of the festivities that will take place in his team’s town, he’ll be pulled a few dozen different ways for appearances, interviews, photo-shoots and — last but certainly not least — his job as a coach in the celebrity game on Friday. But considering his young-and-upcoming team is still in need of the sort of talent that will be in ample supply at the event, he’ll leave some time for the sort of recruiting effort that is tailor-made for this annual, star-studded scene.
“I’ll do a little bit of recruiting during the All-Star break, but my main focus is on just trying to get this team focused on every single game, every practice,” Harden, whose team has significant salary cap space that can be used this summer if they don’t do a major deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday.
“I can’t worry about who we want to recruit and things like that. … For the most part, we’re trying to make the playoffs.”
They’re not alone in that regard.
With a little more than a third of the season remaining after the All-Star break, time is running out for teams to make their respective postseason pushes. The Rockets are among the surging teams in the Western Conference, having entered Sunday’s game at the Sacramento Kings with six wins in their past eight games and firmly in playoff position (currently seventh). No one is hotter than the Denver Nuggets, who overcame the sluggish start to their season to win nine of their past 10 games and are in fourth.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) have thrived even without Harden, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are having career years and new running mate Kevin Martin is filling Harden’s sixth-man role quite well. The San Antonio Spurs are dominating quietly as always, having won 12 of their past 13 to sit atop the conference. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors — who have … [For more on James Harden enters break with Rockets hot, recruiting, click here.]