To say that early returns from James Harden’s tenure with the Clippers have been uninspiring would be an understatement.
Since motioning to acquire the former MVP on Halloween, things have been scary in LA — and not for its opponents. The fit between Harden and the rest of the Clippers’ core of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook has been shaky at best, with no real signs of indicating that they will be able to clean things up.
With respect to wins and losses, the results have been indicative of a complicated fit, and frustrations are rising. Two weeks into the experiment, the Clippers are still in search of their first win with Harden in the fold.
As LA looks to right the ship and live up to its aspirations to contend in the Western Conference, here’s a look at how things have gone since the team added Harden to its roster.
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While news of Harden’s acquisition was first reported on Oct. 31, the deal became official one day later. He was ruled inactive for the team’s loss to the Lakers on Nov. 1. With a five-day break in between games, he made his debut on Nov. 6 against the Knicks.
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LA was 3-1 when it acquired Harden. It enters its final In-Season Tournament game against Houston with a 3-7 record.
* Harden was inactive.
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Since Harden’s debut on Nov. 6, the Clippers have registered an offensive rating of 108.2, which ranks 27th among all NBA teams during that time span. LA’s defensive rating in that same time frame is 118.5, which ranks 25th among all teams.
The Clippers’ net rating of -10.3 with Harden is 29th out of 30 teams. Only the Spurs have been worse, posting a net rating of -21.4 since Nov. 6.
While both sample sizes are extremely small, the Clippers boasted a top-five offense and defense through the first five games of the season. There is plenty of time for LA to right the ship but the differences are visually jarring.
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While he was a limited participant in 76ers training camp, Harden did not see any action during the preseason. Harden’s Clippers debut was his first taste of NBA action since playing for 41 minutes in Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to Boston on May 14, 2023.
“I keep reiterating that I didn’t have a training camp really or a preseason so I’m kind of learning on the fly for a new team,” Harden said after LA’s loss to Denver on Nov. 14. “Also getting myself into James Harden shape and game shape is very important.”
With that in mind, his numbers could see an increase with time.
Does everything fall squarely on Harden? It’s important to acknowledge that in order to acquire the 10-time All-Star, the Clippers parted ways with key depth pieces.