LeBron James lavished praise on Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the Lakers look for a way to stop the key Rockets duo in the NBA playoffs.
The teams will meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday, with James’ team having overcome the Trail Blazers in five games and Houston ousting Oklahoma City in a series that went the full seven games.
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Former Thunder pair Westbrook and Harden — both of whom have won league MVP awards during their careers — will command the most attention from James and others on the Lakers’ defense.
Harden led the league in scoring during the regular season at 34.3 points per game, while Westbrook finished in the top 21 in the league for points, rebounds and assists.
“With James (Harden), it’s how available he is to his teammates night in and night out,” James told reporters. “If you look at how many games he plays per year, and how many minutes he plays throughout the course of his career, pretty much he’s always been available.
“He’s always been in uniform and he’s been doing this at a high level for a lot of years.
“That’s what kind of gets lost in translation because everyone looks at Euro stepping and step-back 3s, but when you’re available to your teammates, that’s gigantic to any sport, any craft or anything that you’re doing in life.
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“If you’re just available for someone they know they can always count on you. That’s pretty much one of the best things that people don’t recognize.”
James has played with Harden and Westbrook for the United States Olympic team and the three-time NBA champion admires the latter’s approach when he is on the court.
“With Russ, he’s just an assassin,” James said. “He’s full-throttle and he could care less what anyone thinks about his game, he goes out and plays his way and he’s been successful doing that.
“They’re two great basketball players, two really good guys — great guys, more importantly. They just do what they do. They go out and they take care of their business and they pretty much don’t care what anyone says about the way they play.”
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