James Harden 'Deeply' Affected by Kobe Bryant's Death
Kobe Bryant's tragic death shocked the NBA world on Sunday, including the Rockets, who had to play in Denver just hours after Bryant's death.
Sunday's loss to the Nuggets was an emotional one for Houston, featuring tears and poignant moments from 37-year-old center Tyson Chandler and veteran point guard Austin Rivers. Rockets superstar James Harden was also reportedly affected by Bryant's death.
"Kobe’s death cut Harden deeply," The Athletic's Kelly Iko wrote on Thursday. "[Harden] cried before the Jazz game, as did other players. Everyone grieves differently, so listening to Harden summarize the week and the ones to come, it was clear to see the pain still on his face, his sarcastic grin non-existent."
Bryant and Harden battled on the court 30 times from 2010-16, with Harden holding a 17-13 edge in the all-time series. Harden, a Los Angeles native, has noted his admiration for Bryant growing up, and Iko described Harden as "Kobe's protege before Kyrie [Irving]."
Harden briefly noted the emotional toll of past last week on Wednesday, but largely discussed the Rockets' on-court performance. Houston will host its first home game in over a week on Friday, playing Luka Doncic and the Mavericks after a four-game road road trip. The Rockets went 2-2 on their road trip, defeating Minnesota and Utah while losing to Denver and Portland.
“A lot of ups and downs,” Harden said on Wednesday night, per Iko. “Obviously, that’s just in being on the road for a week. A lot of emotion. Obviously, we had a tough week, but 2-2 isn’t bad. We want to be better but now we go home and try to finish off these few games.”
Harden continued to struggle on Wednesday night, scoring just 18 points on 18 shots. He is shooting 22.5% from three in his last 10 games.
The Rockets will look to get back on track against Dallas after losing seven of their last 11 games. Tip-off from the Toyota Center in Houston on Friday is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.