OKLAHOMA CITY — James Harden appears well on his way to becoming the third player drafted by the Thunder to win an MVP.
The favorite for this year’s award has made a leap even from last season, when Russell Westbrook’s triple-double season was the only campaign to prevent him from winning. Harden finished second in 2014-15, as well.
If he ends up the MVP this year, he’ll join Westbrook and now Golden State forward Kevin Durant as the third player drafted by OKC to win it. It’s something even Westbrook can appreciate.
“It’s a blessing. It’s something that obviously doesn’t happen very often,” he said before the Thunder played the Rockets on Tuesday. “It’s a blessing to be able to play with each one of those guys, but at the same time know them and understand each individual journey it took for them to get to the level they’re at now.”
He also had kind words to say about Harden, a friend of his since before they were even teammates with the Thunder.
“Obviously, he’s hot. You know what I’m saying?” he said. “Since last year, he’s competed and put his team in position to have the best record in the league at the moment.”
• Stay rested: Thunder coach Billy Donovan has been open about how resting veterans is a collaborative process. And he said the conversation about resting Carmelo Anthony for Saturday’s game in Portland, the second night of a back-to-back for which Anthony did not play, started with him.
“‘How are you feeling? Where are you at [with the] back-to-back?’ And you start a conversation with him,” Donovan said. “He was really ‘whatever you guys think is best,’ then you get with the medical staff. If Carmelo said ‘No, I feel good, I want to play,’ then we would have played him.”
The Thunder have not said if they will rest the 15-year veteran, Anthony, for future games.
• The funnies: Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coached newest member of the Thunder Corey Brewer just last season, when Brewer was in Houston. And D’Antoni raved about the 11-year veteran before Tuesday’s game, calling him “one of my favorite players” and “one of the funniest guys of all time.”
“He keeps things light. You know that every play, everyday, practice, he’s gonna bring the right energy, the right amount of levity without being silly.” D’Antoni said. “He’s a pro’s pro…You can’t go wrong with having a guy like that. We’ve had guys I’ve wanted to re-sign for just being on the airplane laughing with them. So, he’s terrific.”