Harden displays prowess in reserve role

James Harden's stint in Tempe was a short one, but in his two years at ASU the All-American dazzled the Sun Devil nation as the leader of the maroon and gold squad. Since being drafted third overall in the 2009 draft by Oklahoma City Harden has become a vital contributor off the bench for the Thunder. The role is much different than his college one, but one that he has become very effective in.

It was once again a successful homecoming for 6-5 220 James Harden as Oklahoma City notched a 111-107 comeback road victory against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Harden tied Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant for most minutes played (37) and posted 13 points, six rebounds five assists in the win.

Through Friday's game the guard has averaged 25 minutes, 10.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season.

Harden got a rare start in his squad's last three games prior to their meeting with the Suns as teammate Thabo Sefolosha was injured. Nonetheless, he proved in his most recent game that his customary role coming off the bench hasn't affected his performance.

"He is about the team, he has a role (playing off the bench) and he plays it well," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "He doesn't get out of himself. He plays within himself and he plays his role very well for us. I thought he did fairly well in a starting role, but I think he's best for our team coming off the bench. He provides offense, playmaking and he's a big part of our team."

Harden echoed the progress sentiments that his coach mentioned.

"I think I am doing OK," Harden said humbly, "but I need to maintain and be more consistent. It's not always easy but you have to go out there and compete every night. Starting for a few games was different for me and I had to adjust. But I just played hard on both ends of the court so I could help the team.

"Now that I have been in the league for one year I have that confidence that I can go out, know what I'm doing and execute. Playing already in so many games you just know what to expect every night."

As his college team is laboring through 9-13 season, Harden admitted that it is hard to see his former teammates struggle.

"I hope they get out of last place in the Pac-10 and pull some wins together," Harden commented. "I know they can gather themselves. I watched some of their games and they are in every game they play. I think they will be fine."

Harden smiled when reminded that these days he could be close to wrapping up his Sun Devil career as s senior if he didn't choose to forgo his last two seasons of eligibility. Needless to say that under that scenario he would play a pivotal role in any success ASU would have had, yet it appears that his impact on the 32-17 Thunder, albeit as a reserve, carries a heavy weight as well.

"He's a corner piece of what we do," Brooks said. "We are a team that works hard and he is one of our workers. He has to continue to improve. He knows the game better after being one year in the league, he knows what we do. He makes good decisions, spaces the floor and is one of our best three-point shooters (shoots 37.3 percent from that range).

"He has to continue to get better but we like what he's all about."

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