Every single NBA player has to rest. There is no controversy in that. But resting in a regular-season game when fans have paid good money to see them play;that’s when the arguments begin.
Arguments amongst players, coaches, media and fans reach deafening highs right around this time of year as the season winds down and playoff spots are locked up.
That’s where the Rockets and MVP candidate James Harden sit right now. With six games remaining in the season, Harden is nursing a wrist injury and now is faced with the question: to sit, or not to sit?
The Rockets are basically locked into the No. 3 playoff spot in the West as they are 7 1/2games behind San Antonio and four games in front of Utah, so there is very little to be decided in these final six games.
But with Patrick Beverley’s comments March 26 after Houston’s win over Oklahoma City, the situation becomes less cut and dry.
When asked about resting players, Harden's teammate said after the game to reporters, "I think that's bulls—, I think that's a disgrace to this league. I think that fans deserve better."
But would it be better for Harden to sit? In the 70 games to start the season, prior to Harden’s injury, he was averaging 29.2 points per game with a 44.6 shooting percentage, 35.2 percentfrom 3-point range, and 84.9 percentfrom the free-throw line, with 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds.
In the six games since he’s averaging 28.3 points, but shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 25.8 percent from behind the arc, with 10.8 assists, 7.6 rebounds per game.
His plus-minus has dropped from plus-5.9 to minus-0.2, but even knowing that, Harden has been stout in his stance to keep playing.
"(Rest) for what?,"he told USA Today following Friday's loss to Golden State. "It’s messing with my rhythm a little bit, not just tonight but the last week or so. But I’ll be alright. It’s a little (frustrating). I’ll be alright. I’m strong enough."
The decision may come down to head coach Mike D’Antoni but it appears he’ll leave it up to Harden.
"He loves to play, and he thinks he owes it to the people to play, and I think it’s remarkable," D’Antoni told USA Today. "I think it’s great. Now we’ll watch, as we get a little closer, as we get to the last two or three games we’ll have a week before, so maybe we can do something (regarding rest) then, but we’ll make sure he’s ready to go when we open up the playoffs. But again, I trust him, I trust the medical staff."
The same question was presented last season with the Golden State Warriors as Stephen Curry attempted to fight through an ankle injury.
He played through the injury all the way to the end of the season. But during the season he averaged 30.1 points per game. In the playoffs he averaged 25.5. Would rest have helped? Who knows? That’s why the question has been presented to Harden, and it’s something he’ll have to deal with in the coming weeks.
The Rockets get back to action Sunday when they visit Phoenix for a 6 p.m. tip.