While some marquee NBA stars have come under fire for taking games off to rest during the regular season, one MVP candidate has no such inclination to follow suit.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden said he can rest when the season is over. Until then, his message to Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is to keep putting him in the lineup.
"I'm a hooper," Harden said. "I just want to hoop. I'll rest when I'm done. I feel like my teammates and organization need me to go out there and do what I do. I get obviously paid for it, but it's something I love. I enjoy the grind. I enjoy how hard it is. I think that makes you tougher. That makes you who you are."
Harden had seven rebounds, 11 assists and 39 points -- including the game-winning basket on a coast-to-coast drive with 2.4 seconds remaining -- in the Rockets' 125-124 victory over Denver on Monday night. He is averaging 36.5 minutes per game, which ranks seventh in the NBA, and he has 56 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles this season.
"I don't know how many examples you need there," D'Antoni said regarding the MVP award and Harden. "He gives you an example every night. If something's better out there, I've never seen it and I've been around. I'm old and I've been around and never seen anything better."
And will D'Antoni try to rest Harden down the stretch to keep him fresh for the postseason?
"Mike knows not to come at me with that," Harden said.
The debate about rest will linger for the rest of the regular season and likely into the summer as NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Monday called the practice of teams resting marquee players "an extremely significant issue for our league" in a memo sent to team owners.
In the memo, Silver informed teams that the issue will be a prime topic of discussion at the next NBA board of governors meeting April 6 in New York and warned of "significant penalties" for teams that don't abide by the league's standing rules for providing "notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest."
He states that it is unacceptable for owners to be uninvolved or defer decision-making on this topic to others in their organizations, who may not have the same awareness of the impact these decisions can have on "fans and business partners," the reputation of the league and "perception of our game."
When it comes to rest, Harden has missed only one practice, the one after the All-Star break. Other than that, Harden has been at the Toyota Center working with his teammates, enjoying the grind of the season.
Meanwhile, the Rockets have Tuesday and Wednesday off before getting back to the grind on Thursday. Houston next plays the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
"That's when I can rest," Harden said. "Take care of my body, cold tubs, messages, stretching and be ready to go [Friday]."
ESPN's Calvin Watkins contributed to this report.
James Harden: 'I just want to hoop ... I enjoy the grind'
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