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Players rave about Harden

Players rave about HardenOklahoma City Thunder point guard Shaun Livingston made a bold proclamation when asked the impact James Harden might have this season.

"He has the type of ability he could run away with Rookie of the Year, depending on what that guy in LA does," Livingston said. "That shows how much confidence I have in him, how much I believe in him."

Reminded "that guy in LA," Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick who played at OU, is a local icon, Livingston said: "I don't want people around here to be mad at me. But (Harden) is the No. 3 pick and I still think he's underrated.

"The kid is experienced beyond his age. He has a point guard's feel for the game in a two-guard's body. He can score, play defense, get you a big stop, get you a rebound. And he can really pass the ball. I think he's going to bring a lot to this team."

Griffin is the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. But several Thunder teammates, having played with Harden during voluntary workouts the past few weeks, raved about the Los Angeles native entering training camp, which started Tuesday.

"James gives us a shooter," said veteran Nick Collison. "We really missed a good, knock-down perimeter shooter. I think he can become that. And he can score, slash and do other things."

A 6-foot-5 left-handed shooting guard, Harden is best known for his perimeter shooting. But general manager Sam Presti selected Harden because of his all-around skills and knowledge, especially for a 20-year-old.

"James displayed in summer league he can do a lot of things well," said coach Scott Brooks. "Obviously, he can score the Basketball. But that's not his main focus. His main focus is being a playmaker, defending and helping his teammates get better."

Similar to teammates Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, Harden is an upbeat young talent willing to spend hours in the gym to improve.

"I'm a team guy, even in college," Harden said. "I wasn't a scorer first guy. I wanted to get my teammates involved. That made me happy. Obviously we have a lot better players here. Whatever the team needs me to do, whatever the coach needs me to do, I'll do to help this team win."

Harden left the LA area to lift an Arizona State program that was down. He enters a similar situation in Oklahoma City. He's excited about playing for an organization many view as a team on the rise.

Not everyone endorsed Presti selecting Harden, who heard the criticism three months ago. Some analysts said Presti should have drafted Ricky Rubio, the highly touted teenage point guard from Spain.

"I've always been an under-the-radar guy that has to prove himself," Harden said. "That's far behind me. Right now, with training camp starting, I'm focused on getting better and helping my teammates. I want to listen, be like a sponge."

Harden already has discovered the benefits of playing with Durant, Westbrook and Green.

"In workouts I've been knocking down shots. But I've had a lot of open shots," Harden said. "That's something I'm not used to."

MY PROFILE James Harden

→Hometown: Los Angeles

→Size: 6-foot-5, 220 pounds

→School: Arizona State

→How acquired: 2009 draft (No. 3)

→Favorite movie: Love and Basketball

→Internet bookmark: Twitter (@jHARD13)

→Favorite athlete in another sport: Tiger Woods

→Love to trade places with: Jay-Z

→Talent you'd like to have: rapping

→Worst habit: eating junk food

→What actor plays you in a movie: Denzel Washington

→What do you drive: A Benz

→In 10 years I hope: to wear an NBA (title) ring

→Pet peeve: crazy drivers

→In my iPod: Drake

→Superstition: Don't have any

→View of OKC: relaxed, different from LA

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 2, 2009


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