James Harden Is Ready to Cook With Russell Westbrook


The Houston Rockets added Russell Westbrook to an already stacked roster. He’s now paired with James Harden, and it’s even more championship-or-bust for Daryl Morey’s crew. Much ink has already been spilled — with buckets more to come in the future — about the challenges two superstars of this magnitude create.

There is but a single basketball for the ball-dominant duo to share. There are both alphas and there can only be one at a time during crunch time. And then there’s the fact they were previously teammates on the insanely blessed Oklahoma Thunder teams that all failed to reach the promised land.

Harden is understandably optimistic about the whole thing.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out,” he said, essentially echoing the sentiments previously voiced by Mike D’Antoni. “You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”

It’s the right thing to say, and it’s the right mindset to have. Of course, it’s decidedly not true. Sports are littered with examples of talented teams struggling to make it all work. Obviously, the most talented teams do not  always win.

It would be unreasonable and also a red flag for Harden to say otherwise when asked. He should be all-in positive in advance of the season. Expressing hope and backing it up isn’t as newsworthy as if he’d said otherwise.

Whether it’s a authentically held belief or not, there’s a debate to be had: is it better for a team to have incredible chemistry with a talent deficiency or have the talent in droves but struggle with meshing.

For me, it’s a clear answer. Chemistry is something that can be honed and improved. It’s a lot tougher to turn a lesser player into Russell Westbrook.

Talent comes with baggage. But like an overtstuffed suitcase, it’s better to be able to shed a bit than find yourself without the appropriate necessity. This season in Houston is going to be a pressure cooker. The Rockets’ fancy new restaurant may fail, but it won’t be for lack of competent chefs.

The James Harden-Russell Westbrook problem is a good one to have. Teams everywhere would kill to have it and negotiate it.