James Harden is one of the unquestioned leaders for his ball club in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Houston Rockets. With the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup days away, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is expected to bring that leadership role to the United States of America basketball national team.
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman admitted as much in a recent interview.
“Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader,” Colangelo declared via The Washington Post. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.”
It’s a quick turnaround for Harden to become a leader for Team USA. Just two years ago, at the 2012 London Olympics Harden averaged just 5.5 points per game in 9.1 minutes off the bench for the powerhouse squad.
That team includes the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony—all begged off from their NT commitments in the world championship this year.
Without the Team USA’s superstars, Harden is expected to produce numbers similar to his stats with the Houston Rockets: 25.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists in the 2013-2014 NBA season.
One of the criticisms on Harden as a member of the Rockets is his sometimes inconsistent and often lazy effort on defense. With Team USA, he assures that he’s working on that aspect of his game.
“First of all, you got the top players in the world on your team, so if you’re not focused and locked in on defense, they are going to embarrass you,” Harden said in the same article.
Harden’s role has grown larger in his second major stint with Team USA in international basketball. Along with it is trying to lead a relatively young crew to the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.