Scott Brooks says James Harden a worthy MVP, but so is LeBron James

HOUSTON -- If Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks had an MVP vote, it would go to Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

But that vote would come with a caveat.

"He's definitely an MVP this year," Brooks said of Harden before the Wizards lost to the Rockets 120-104 on Tuesday night. "He's played well on the team that's playing the best in basketball, but you can always argue LeBron [James] can get it every year. Like Michael Jordan should have had 12 of them. LeBron's the same type of player. He's having probably a better year than he had before, however many years he had.

"But James is deserving. He put in a lot of work. He's gotten better every year. Sometimes, it's hard to do that when you're at a high level. He's been at an MVP level for the last three years or so. Every year, he's come back and played better. Like all MVPs, it's about impact and winning."

Harden, who entered Tuesday leading the NBA with 30.6 points per game and ranks third in assists (8.8) to help the Rockets clinch the top overall seed, is widely considered the favorite to win his first MVP after twice finishing second in the voting, including last season when Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook won the award.

But Brooks also has a bias toward Harden, having coached him for the first three seasons of his career with the Thunder.

"He's overrated, by the way," Brooks said jokingly when Harden walked by during the Wizards coach's pregame media availability in a Toyota Center hallway, drawing a chuckle out of Harden. Moments later, Brooks raved about the work ethic that the guard displayed in Oklahoma City, where he won a Sixth Man of the Year before being traded to the Rockets.

"We wouldn't have gotten to the [2012] Finals without him," Brooks said of the series that the Thunder lost to the James-led Miami Heat. "He was a terrific player. Unfortunately, we didn't keep him."

James, a four-time MVP, is having arguably the best statistical season in the 15th year of his career and recently said that he would vote for himself for MVP. James entered Tuesday averaging career highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.7) while scoring 27.4 points per game, the fifth-highest average of his career, for theCleveland Cavaliers.

Brooks is also wise to carefully choose his words about James. The Cavaliers and Wizards are on course to meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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