When the trade became official last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Clippers (3-3) much anticipated debut of newly acquired 10x All-Star James Harden was set. What better place to showcase the highly touted former MVP (2018) than in the “Mecca” of New York City, Madison Square Garden! In front of No. 1 fan Spike Lee.
Head coach Ty Lue inserted Harden into the starting lineup against the New York Knicks on Monday night. This came after several days of practice to get him integrated. He started alongside Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook in the first look of this new Clippers unit. Before they even took the floor for the first time all the players throughout the locker room spoke about this being a “process” along the way.
They fell to Knicks 111-97 in their lowest scoring output this season. The Clippers were outscored 35-21 in the 4th. This came after the game was tied at 76 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Of course, the team’s objective was to win the game. But the bigger picture and focus was how this new look roster looked with Harden essentially running the show.
In his career, Harden has a record of 3-0 in games debuting with a new team. He is averaging 32/ppg, 12.7/ast, and 8.7/reb in those games.
To start the game he eased his way into the flow of what coach Lue wanted to see from his team. He looked eager to get everyone else around him involved early, by looking to get easy looks for his teammates. Harden didn’t attempt a field goal in the 1st quarter, but then turned it on in the 2nd.
Welcome to the family, James Harden! pic.twitter.com/zVs6W56AEB— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) November 7, 2023
He started the 2nd quarter playing alongside the second unit, and we got the aggressive Harden we’re accustomed to seeing. Harden scored nine points in the 2nd (4-5 FG) and had three assists to close the half. He had a huge 3-pt at the end of the 3rd to put LA up 76-73. But then New York was able to tie the game with one of their own. He finished with 17 points and six assists (team-high) in 31 mins.
LA gave up 18 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 22 times which contributed to the loss.
Teammates and Coaches Thoughts
After the loss, Leonard who scored a team-high 18 points (8-16 FG) said, “We’re trying to figure it out each and every day,” when asked about how many games it would take to figure all this out with Harden added in the mix.
George, who struggled offensively going just 2-11 from the field for 10 points, spoke about what he saw (from Harden) in his first live game action since the Game 7 loss to Boston back in May while with the Sixers, “I thought he looked good. He looked in rhythm. I know his conditioning was a little off, but other than he looked great. He made shots and got guys involved and had an impact on defensive possessions.”
Coach Ty Lue, “I thought James was really good. We’re still trying to feel each other out and it’s going to be a process. I love the process we have to go through to get to where we want to get to.” he said following the loss.
It won’t be easy for any coach to manage a team with this many personalities. Especially when they have a plethora of individual accolades to go along with them. He is one of the better coaches at this level and embraces the challenge of figuring this out as the season progresses.
Harden’s Assessment and Next Up
“Felt kind of weird out there, not really having a preseason game or an opportunity to participate in a full training camp, none of that,” Harden said after the game. “I was out there just basically winging it, but I tried to go with my basketball instincts and what I’ve been doing for the last few years and whatnot, and just going out there and playing and thinking the game and trying to make the game easier for everybody else.”
They will get their next opportunity on Wednesday. They travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets (3-4) in their third straight road game.