"I Am Not A System Player, I Am A System" - The James Harden Experiment In Los Angeles Is Already Off To A Hilarious Start

Tim Nwachukwu. Getty Images.

Somehow, someway, James Harden ultimately won his standoff with Daryl Morey and was traded to his preferred destination. Part of me thinks this was more due to the fact that the Sixers looked more than formidable without him and figured it was time to stop screwing around and fully empower Tyrese Maxey, but at the end of the day despite all of his antics, Harden still got what he wanted.

How this all works with the Clippers is going to be fascinating to watch, because on paper their roster would have been absolutely unstoppable in say….2018. Sadly, it is 2023. While his postseason performance rightfully has people down on Harden (what else is new), it is also true that he was a pretty effective player in 2022-23 as long as the games took place before May. It's not crazy to suggest that if he's committed and bought in he can help the Clippers, a team that definitely needs guard help and can now have another star player available in the event Kawhi or Paul George get hurt. 

As with everything Harden does, it tends to make headlines. Take this quote from his introductory presser today

Admit it, that's a fire line. It's almost like he had that in his back pocket and had practiced it before saying it. It came out way too clean if we're being honest.  As you can imagine, Harden is already getting dragged for it, but this is why context is important. There was actually more to this quote, and I feel like it's my journalistic duty to make sure the full context is provided 

You see, really this was just another chance for Harden to take a shot at Doc Rivers. To me, that makes this even better. The funny part, at least to me, is the fact that Harden led the NBA in assists for a team that was top 3 in their conference despite playing under a "leash" as a Sixer. Seems like it suited him pretty well!

At the same time, it's also kind of true that 2 of the 3 games the Sixers won in the second round against the Celtics were due to Harden playing like "vintage" James Harden. Where it was fuck everyone else I'll do this myself, and it worked. Embiid sure as shit wasn't helping since Al Horford had him in jail (again). It is true that back in the day, James Harden was the system. During his Rockets years, everything went through him. He didn't fit in with you, you fit in with him. He's one of the greatest offensive talents the NBA has ever seen and is a first ballot HOFer. There was a time when this wasn't all that crazy of an idea.

Sadly, 2023 is not that time. I think he's going to learn pretty quickly that he's going to have to fit into the Clippers' system/style of play and not the other way around. At this stage of his career, he can't really carry the load like he did as a Rocket, and that's OK! Also one would think given his playoff shortcomings, maybe he should be more open to being a system player. 


All I know is I cannot wait to see this all unfold on the court. The Clippers are in win now mode where they basically have to at least make the Finals or else everything could fall apart rather quickly. Having to now rely on James Harden in a win now situation that requires everyone to come through in the playoffs when that's been the exact thing he's been terrible at his entire career is certainly a choice. I guess the hope is maybe Kawhi and George can do most of the heavy lifting when it matters most? At this point, there's really no excuse for anyone on that roster. For Harden, he got what he wanted and is joining a stacked team. For the Clippers, they just added another HOFer to their roster. If this group can't get it done, that might be a wrap for the entire Kawhi/PG13/Harden/Westbrook experiment.